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Full text of "Mitre Court : a tale of the great city"



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M ITRE COURT 



Jl ^alc of the €r£at Qlxlxh 



MRS. J. H. RIDDELL, 

AUTHOR OF 

" GEORGE GEITH OF FEN COURT," " SUSAN DRUMMOND," 

ETC, 



IN THREE VOLUMES. 
VOL. IIL 




LONDON : 
RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON, 

^^ttblisltcrs in ©riinntj} to '^tv ^tliijtstu tiic CQ;tcctt. 

1885. 

[AU Rights Reserved. \ 




CONTENTS OF VOL. III. 



CHAPTER 

I. INIR. KATZEN PROPOSES 
II. A DOUBLE SURPRISE 
III. MRS. CHILDS' STORY 
IV. I LOVE VOU 

V. FRANK'S CONFESSION 

VI. A WEARY DAY 
VIL A HARD DECISION 

VIII. MOTHER AND SON 
IX. THAT DEAR VICTOR 
X. MRS. MORETON - 
XI. THE BUBBLE BURSTS 
XII. THE END OF THE LOAN 
CONCLUSION 



I 

41 

6S 
89 
113 
13S 
167 
190 
215 
231 

253 
287 
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Digitized by tine Internet Arcliive 
in 2010 witli funding from 
Dul<e University Libraries 



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MITRE COU RT. 



CHAPTER I. 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. 




S the short period for which Mr. 
Katzen had taken the defaulting 
stockbroker's desirable residence 
drew to a close, great pressure was brought 
to bear on New Andalusia's Consul, with the 
object of inducing him to buy the appropriate 
furniture and fag-end of the lease. 

" Come, Mr. Katzen, you shall have it for 
a song," remarked the trustee. 

"Very well," said the Consul, "what song 
shall it be ? I do not sing, but that is a mere 
detail." 

Then the accountant, feeling sure of his 
VOL. III. 41 



MITRE COURT. 



man, named what he called a merely nominal 
sum, whereupon Mr. Katzen, with well- 
feigned surprise, exclaimed : 

" I see ! I see ! It is a cheque you want, 
not a song. Now why could you not have 
told me so at first ?" 

He was not such a foolish bird as to be 
caught with chaff. " No, no, no," he de- 
clared ; "I am tired of your villa. The 
Thames sometimes comes up to the hall door. 
Think how pleasant it must be to step from 
the windows into water ! You take back 
your house, and sell it if you can. If you 
can't, why it will have to stay unsold, so far 
as I am concerned." 

" But a man in your position ought to have 
a house, Mr. Katzen. Reflect — consider — 
the very very low price we have put upon it. 
You will never meet with such a chance again." 

"" That may be. I shall run the risk. 
What one does not want is dear almost for 
nothing. Besides, I mean to have a house 
— in London, though — a flat." 

" You will want furniture, then. Why not 
make a bid for the contents of Maple Villa ?" 
suggested the trustee eagerly. 



MR. KA TZEN PROPOSES. 



"What! — to put in my flat? My good 
sir, you must indeed consider me a very silly 
person." 

If anyone thought so, it certainly was not 
the astute individual addressed. Indeed, 
about that time, Mr. Katzen's cleverness was 
a theme of frequent conversation amongst 
even those who had not the happiness of 
intimate acquaintanceship. 

As usual, rumour exaggerated his success 
in floating the New Andalusian loan, and 
piloting it to land. 

" Knowing little beggar !" — " Hatful of 
brains !" — " Not another man could have 
done it !" — " He's like a cat : once he gets 
his head through any hole, he can squeeze 
his whole body !"■ — " There's no ladder too 
tall for the fellow to swarm up !" — " Deep 
dog!" — "Wise enough to keep his own 
counsel !" — " Shouldn't be a bit surprised to 
see him at the top of the tree in another 
year or two !" Such were a few of the 
encomiums passed on the Consul by those 
who but a short time previously had pre- 
tended not to see him in the street, and were 

41^2 



MITRE COURT. 



wont to speak of him as a " needy little 
adventurer." 

Other times, other manners. Mr. Katzen 
was in the sunshine now, and the motes were 
dancing about him. 

The loan had long been closed, for the 
good reason that no more money was to be 
cajoled out of John Bull's capacious pockets, 
and Mr. Katzen was now pursuing various 
new speculations of his own. No one could 
have found fault with him for want of decision 
in his New Andalusian monetary campaign. 

When he found the returns failed to pay 
the cost of advertising, he instantly stopped 
the game. 

" That well is pumped dry," he decided. 
" We must sink another." He had found 
the festivities at Maple Villa extremely useful 
as landing-nets for desirable fishes, and it was 
for this reason he determined to take that 
flat for which his friend the accountant had 
wanted him to purchase Mr. Perham's chairs 
and tables. 

" Yes," thought the Consul, " the time has 
come when I must make a change. Fowkes' 
Buildings was well enough, but Karl Katzen 



MR. KA TZEN PROPOSES. 



is not precisely the Karl Katzen who once 
was glad to rest there. He is a power now, 
and should be lodged accordingly." 

He said nothing to Mrs. Jeffley of his 
intention till his new abode was ready for 
occupation. Nay, even then he waited a 
little, keeping his rooms in her house on for 
a time, though he rarely occupied them. 

At last he told his good friend that, even 
while he was broken-hearted at the idea of 
leaving, he must go. 

For a moment Mrs. Jeffley looked at him 
incredulously ; then crying, ** I knew it — I 
felt this was coming," she burst into tears. 

With what words Mr. Katzen soothed, or 
rather tried to soothe, the fair Maria, he 
never afterwards could exactly remember. 
Mrs. Jeffley took not the smallest notice of 
his assurances of devotion. 

Things had lately been going contrary 
with her. One person had left in her debt. 
Captain Hassell was about to be married. 
Her term of the house was nearly out, and 
the landlord would not enter into a fresh 
agreement, except at an increased rental. 
Jack had grown of late rather independent. 



MITRE COURT. 



and when his wife began to scold he took his 
hat Servants were more difficult than ever 
to procure, and when procured could not be 
induced to stay. Miss Weir told her that 
while she kept Mrs. Childs about the house 
she need not expect to get a servant to 
remain in it. Her cup had seemed full 
before, and now Mr. Katzen added the last 
drop which caused it to overflow. 

" But it is no matter what I feel," she 
said. " I am nobody — you have got so rich 
and so grand, the old days are quite for- 
gotten." 

" When I forget all you have done for me, 
may Heaven forget me too," answered Mr. 
Katzen ; " and as for the little money I have 
made — when your fine ship comes home, you 
will have money too." 

And so he chatted on, till Mrs. Jeffley dried 
her eyes, and remarked with a heavy sigh : 

" Fretting would not set a broken bone, and 
she must make the best of it. You will be 
marrying next, I suppose," she went on. 

" I dare say," he answered. "All in good 
time." 

"Abigail Weir, of course." 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. 



" Perhaps she may not have me." 
" Oh, she'll have you fast enough now^'' 
said Mrs, Jeffley, with an emphasis which 
meant the only friend who had liked him, 
and stood to him in his days of adversity, 
was the one he coolly proposed leaving. 

" I hope you will prove a true prophet," 
returned Mr. Katzen, with great presence of 
mind. 

" I only wish I was as sure of getting my 
lease renewed as I am she won't say No 
when you ask her," answered Mrs. Jeffley. 
"It was only this morning she told me she 
had got to hate the sight of a needle, and 
wished she could find any other way of earn- 
ing her bread." 

" What a rare faculty you have, dear friend, 
of putting things pleasantly !" remarked Mr. 
Katzen. 

"Well, you know, it is hardly to be expected 
a young girl would marry a man old enough 
to be her father y^r love.'' 

" Very true ; but that signifies not at all — 
the love will come." 

" I am sure I hope it may — some people 
would not like to chance it, though." 



MITRE COURT. 



" Some people are afraid of chancing any- 
thing." 

" Remember, I have nothing to say against 
Abigail Weir — all the same, I think you 
would have done better to choose a woman 
nearer your own age, and that had not been 
picked out of the gutter. People are apt to 
cast up things like that." 

" They are indeed," said Mr. Katzen, with 
ready acquiescence. 

"And you might feel it hard to be told 
some day your wife had been a beggar child 
— no less, no more." 

" That is true — I might." 
"And so you will think twice before throw- 
ing yourself away ?" 

" I will many times, dear friend. Thank 
you so very much." 

" Not, remember, but I think the girl a 
good girl." 

"That is the best of you — always just, 
always generous." 

" I would do my endeavour to act fair by 
everybody." 

" And your endeavour is your act — beyond 
all things you are free from the few foibles of 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. 



your sex. You know not envy or jealousy, 
or any such bad passion. It is not many 
ladies standing in the glorious summer prime 
of life who can look with clear, ungrudging 
eyes on the tender little maidens still inno- 
cently straying under the apple-blossoms of 
spring. But you, ah ! you are angelic ! For 
you the sere autumn holds no terrors — for you 
the approach of that inevitable winter which 
changes beyond recognition even the most 
beautiful, cannot affright." 

And feeling he could not civilly add any- 
thing in the way of nastlness to this flowery 
speech, Mr. Katzen, intimating that he In- 
tended going for a little stroll, left Mrs. 
Jeffley to meditate if she pleased on the 
mutability of all friendship, more especially 
male friendship. 

" He's off to that girl," thought Jack's wife 
— "well, I'm sure I don't know! What he 
can see about her passes my comprehension." 

Mr. Katzen, however, was not off to 
" that girl ;" instead, he meant to see Mr. 
Brisco. 

"No time like time present," he considered, 
*' when time present means • money at your 



MITRE COURT. 



bankers, credit everywhere — a good position, 
and the reputation of being as shrewd a man 
as any on Change. And you are shrewd, 
my Karl — only — only — it does seem hard 
that when you were just as clever and capable 
— as persevering and as ready to seize a 
chance as you are now — you could not get a 
soul to believe in you except perhaps poor 
stupid Mrs. Jeffley, and our good friend in 
Love Lane. Never mind, though. What a 
world this is, my faith ! Kick it hard — 
harder — and it will lick your hand — grovel to 
lick it. Speak it fair — pat it — pouf ! — how it 
snarls — how it has snarled -aX yotL f 

Even when contrasted with his present 
prosperity, the memory of that time of ad- 
versity was not quite pleasant. The con- 
sciousness that we have conquered fate often 
fails to salve the wounds received during 
the fight ; and though he showed so brave 
a front and sneered with such scorn at the 
folks who had flouted him, often that part 
of a man which in such a nature as Mr. 
Katzen's apes self-respect turned sick to 
think of what his other part had borne in the 
struggle for mere existence — for bare meat 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. 



and clothing — lodging, and a shilling or so in 
his pocket to keep the devil out. 

" Let it go — let it sleep," he murmured ; "it 
was a black past — we won't spoil the sunshine 
by thinking of it;" and he turned his face 
resolutely towards the old house, where in 
answer to his knock he was cheered by the 
sight of Abigail, 

" How are you ?" he cried. " It is so long 
— so long " 

" What is so long T asked the obdurate 
maiden, releasing her hand. 

" Since we have met," returned Mr. Katzen 
tenderly. 

" Oh ! is that all ? Surely it was not worth 
while calling to say so little." 

" Ah ! but I have more, much more to say," 
he answered ; " and that reminds me — is Mr. 
Brisco to be seen ?" 

" I suppose so. He is in his room ;" and 
with this plain dismissal Abigail walked back 
to her own snuggery, leaving Mr. Katzen to 
make his way upstairs, helped to do so by the 
faint gleam of a gas-burner turned as low as 
was compatible with being alight at all. 

Abigail never glanced at her lover, but he 



MITRE COURT. 



Stood on the first landing making pantomimic 
gestures of love and admiration till her last 
footfall died away. Then, with a serious face, 
he set himself to the task of bearding Mr. 
Brisco in his den. 

" And I can't even hazard a conjecture as to 
how he will take it," thought the Consul. 
"However, here goes!" and he rapped lightly 
at the accustomed door. 

There was a pause, during which Mr. 
Katzen's quick ear caught the sound of a 
faint rustle of paper, of a drawer being 
cautiously closed, and then utter silence. 

" Soh — h — h !" whispered the Consul to 
himself ; after which comforting exclamation 
he tapped again. 

" Who is there ?" asked Mr. Brisco. 

" I — Katzen — Karl Katzen " 

"Oh! Mr. Katzen," said Mr. Brisco, open- 
ing the door, " pray walk in. I did not 
expect to see you." 

" I hope I am not a very bad sight," 
returned the Consul. 

" Bad ! Quite the contrary. Won't you 
sit down ? And how are you T 

"As well/' said Mr. Katzen, accepting the 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. 13 



proffered chair, which lacked a back, '' as a 
man can be who comes a-beo-gfingr." 

"A-begging !" repeated Mr. Brisco. "What 
can you want to beg ?" 

" Not money," was the reply. " No, not 
so much as a single brass farthing ; but I do 
want something badly." 

" What is it ?" And Mr. Brisco's tone was 
not encouraging. 

" First," said the Consul, no way abashed 
or disconcerted, checking off one item on 
the fore-finger of his left hand, " your 
patience " 

" And then ?" 

" Your attention." 

" Yes, and afterwards ?" 

" Your wisdom, judgment, common-sense." 

" Do you want my advice .'^" 

" No. I take no man's advice. Rude, 
you say, but true. You take no man's advice. 
Why should you ? Why should I ? Why 
should anybody not a fool ?" 

Mr. Brisco shook his head. "If you are 
propounding some conundrum," he observed, 
" I may tell you I never even tried to guess 
one in my life." 



14 MITRE COURT. 



" It is not a conundrum, this want of mine. 
Listen to me. I am doing well — you know 
that. It is a miracle what fortune has come 
to me. Sometimes I stand still, and say I 
to my own self, ' Can it possibly be all since 
Whitsuntide last year ?' Everything has so 
changed. Now, big people stop me in the 
street, and say, ' My dear Katzen.' And I 
hear and smile, and think, ' Not so long ago 
I was cheap Katzen, useless Katzen — so little 
you could not see me across Finch Lane.' 
Ah ! bah ! and all the time I am just the same, 
the same heart, the same brains, the same 
bones, the same body." 

Mr. Brisco smiled bitterly. " It is easier 
to see a sovereign than a halfpenny, you 
remember." 

"True, true. I am the gold now. I was 
but the poor copper once. Never mind that, 
though. See me as I am, prosperous, well 
considered, going to do bigger things still, 
and yet I want — a small trifle more." 

" And that is " 

" Can you not guess ?" 

" I cannot guess — unless you want more 
money." 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. 15 

" I shall be able to get more money ; it Is 
not that." 

" Then, in God's name, what is it ?" 

" When a man has money, a house, furni- 
ture, what is it he most generally needs ?" 

" I have not the faintest idea. You must 
tell me. I give it up !" 

' Why, a wife, to be sure !" 

" A wife !" echoed Mr. Brisco in amaze- 
ment. " Good Lord ! Whose wife ?" 

"Whose wife! Nobody's wife," answered 
Mr. Katzen. " I want a wife of my 
own." 

" Then why don't you get one ? Women 
are not so scarce." 

" Ah ! It is just there I need your help." 

" My help !" said Mr. Brisco. " My good 
sir, are you mad ?" 

" I am not mad," answered Mr. Katzen. 
" I want a wife — not a vague wife, but a 
particular wife, and you are the only person 
who can aid in perfecting my happiness." 

"What do you take me for?" asked Mr. 
Brisco. "A bishop, or an archbishop, or 
even a curate ?" 

" No. I shall not require a parson till 



i6 MITRE COURT. 



later on. What I require now is a good 
word from you to the lady." 

" To what end ? I don't know who she 

is ; and if I did " 

"Oh yes, you do know her," interrupted 
Mr. Katzen. 

" You must be mistaken. I do not know a 

woman even to speak to, except Abigail " 

" That is enouorh. It is on Abio-ail I have 
set my heart. It is with Abigail I want your 
help." 

"Abigail!'' repeated Mr, Brisco. "Abigail 
Weir !" 

"Are you aware of any obstacle .f*" asked 
Mr. Katzen a little uneasily. But Mr. Brisco 
never answered him. With his hands folded 
before him on the table, he sat silent, looking 
steadily into vacancy. 

For a time Mr. Katzen sat silent too, but 
at last he broke the stillness by suggesting : 

" You seem surprised " 

Mr. Brisco turned his pale face and cold 
eyes full on the Consul as he said : 
" I am stunned." 

" What ! did you never suspect anything of 
the sort ?" 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. 17 

" Certainly not." 

"Strange, too. Not even when I sug- 
gested the possibihty of her having a lover ?" 
"Why should that have made me suspect 

alt 

you / 

Mr, Katzen shrugged his shoulders. 

" None so blind," he thought. " Anyhow," 
he added aloud, " I never remember the time 
when I was not more than half in love with 
our wanderinof maiden. It has orrown with 
her growth. I have desired money for her 
sake, influence that I might sway her, position 
that I might share it with her; I have served 
for her seven years. Give her to m»e !" 

" She is not mine to give." 

" Then she is not yours to withhold." 

" True, she is not " 

" To whom does she belong ?" 

" I don't know that she belongs to anyone." 

"If that be so, there cannot be much 
difficulty. Come, Mr. Brisco, I have spoken 
frankly to you — why don't you speak frankly 
to me ?" 

"About what?" 

" About Abigail ; I want to marry her. 
Have you any objection ?" 

VOL. III. 42 



MITRE COURT. 



Mr, Brisco resumed his rapt contempla- 
tion of the farther corner of the room. 

" I had other views for her," he said, as 
thous^h aroruingf the matter with himself. 

Mr. Katzen longed to ask if those views 
included transforming the sprightly Abigail 
into Mrs. Brisco, but he refrained. 

*' Though as a lover," he began, '' it be- 
hoves me to be modest, I confess, speak- 
ing as a disinterested outsider, I think that 
charming Miss Weir is not likely to get a 
much better offer." 

" I dare say not — I dare say not," agreed 
Mr. Brisco, in an absent tone of voice. 

" Then why won't you answer me ?" asked 
Mr. Katzen. "Why do you neither give nor 
withhold your blessing ? I do not ask or 
care who her father and mother were, or 
whether she ever had any ; I do not seek to 
solve the mystery of her coming here and of 
your letting her stay ; I am willing to make 
a small settlement to the end that, if left a 
widow, she should not be forced to go on 
stitch, stitch to the end of the chapter. I 
long for the delights of domestic life — long 
for the fireside, the easy slippers, the saucy 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. 19 

talk of Abigail. Give her to me. Speak a 
good word of recommendation — say, at least, 
you are not averse." 

" You have taken me by surprise," an- 
swered Mr. Brisco coldly. " Such an idea 
never occurred to me — never would have 
occurred. Why, you must be five-and-twenty 
years older than she, at least." 

" Hu — m — m — m!" exclaimed Mr. Katzen. 
" There is a disparity, I admit " 

" I should think there is," interpolated Mr. 
Brisco. 

" Still, it will lessen every day." 

"Will it?" 

" In proportion, I mean. She will grow 
older year by year." 

"And you will grow younger, I sup- 
pose ?" 

" Most likely. Why not } Prosperity and 
happiness might well make a greybeard 
young. Besides, it is not a case of May and 
December — more like April and July, shall 
we say ?" 

"Say what you please; it won't commit 
us," observed Mr. Brisco. 

" And you need not be afraid but that I 

42 — 2 



MITRE COURT. 



would be good to her. I would take her to 
see beautiful lands " 

" Yes ; but, you see, I have not the faintest 
notion whether Abigail would care for travel- 
ling. Her journeys for many years past have 
been confined to the old house and the three 
surrounding parishes." 

" Ah, you mock me !" 

" I mock you ! What is there to mock at ? 
You have taken away my breath, I confess, 
yet still there is nothing really extraordinary 
or unnatural about what you say. Only I 
had not thought of Abigail leaving me, 

and " He just stopped and hesitated for 

one moment, then added — '' But, of course, it 
stands to reason she must go. Mr. Katzen, 
as you put it, / can have nothing to say 
against the match." 

" Look here, Mr. Brisco," cried the Consul 
eagerly ; " I have no desire to separate you 
and Abigail. Come and live with us ; make 
our home yours ; let Abigail remain your 
daughter ; try to take me for a son." 

There was a pause. Mr. Katzen could 
not see the old man. He held his hand so 
as to protect his eyes from the blinding glare 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. 



of one poor dip. When he answered he did 
so in a sharp, bitter voice : 

" Thank you ; but I can't do that exactly. 
If she Hkes to take you, do not trouble your- 
selves about me. I did very well before she 
came ; I have no doubt I shall do very well 
after she goes. But, after all," went on Mr. 
Brisco, " it is not I who can decide, only 
Abigail herself. I will call her." 

"Surely you will speak to her first in 
private — tell her all I have said ?" 

" To what purpose ? That she should 
think I was misrepresenting you, or that you 
should feel sure I had been influencing her ? 
We will know what the person most in- 
terested has to say ;" and he rose and moved 
to the door. 

As he passed out Mr. Katzen could but 
notice a strange change in his gait — a change 
so marked that he felt half inclined to follow 
him. He swayed unsteadily, and for a 
moment caught hold of the lintel of the door 
as if to balance himself; then he walked on, 
and Mr. Katzen heard him descending the 
stairs. 

" He can't drink," he thought ; then added 



MITRE COURT. 



next instant — ''Does he drink ? Faith, maybe 
that is the solution of the enigma, after all." 

" Abigail," called Mr. Brisco from the first 
landing. 

The word woke all the echoes of the old 
house ; the girl's name seemed to be repeated 
again and again from basement to garret. 

" Here I am — do you want me ?" answered 
Abigail. 

" Yes : come up to my room, if you please." 

She came — following Mr. Brisco in. She 
was dressed in a dark blue dress of some soft 
material which fitted her perfectly ; she had 
a tiny flower in her brooch ; her collar was as 
usual snow-white ; she wore an apron with 
pockets containing the eternal sewing imple- 
ments ; the damask was blanched out of her 
cheeks, and Mr. Katzen saw by the quick 
restless glance she cast around that for some 
reason she was ill at ease. 

He had risen when she appeared, and 
offered her his chair — the room boasted but 
two. Persons who came to see Mr. Brisco 
rarely felt tempted to remain long. 

With a slight gesture Abigail declined the 
Consul's courtesy. She stood looking at Mr. 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. 23 



Brisco, who had on his return at once, and 
without reference to what anybody else hked 
to do, resumed his seat. Mr. Katzen re- 
mained standing ; he waited to hear how Mr. 
Brisco would open the proceedings. He was 
not long kept in suspense. 

" Abigail," said her benefactor, with no 
unseemly levity, putting a question which 
struck the Consul as eminently absurd, " have 
you ever thought of marriage ?" 

The girl glanced at Mr. Katzen, and 
the cloud of anxiety disappeared from her 
face. 

** I scarcely understand," she answered 
demurely. 

" Mr. Brisco means, brightest one, have 
you ever thought that some day you may 
marry yourself?" 

" Of course I have," she replied promptly ; 
" not that I may marry myself, but that I 
will marry some other person." 

" Ah ! And who is that other person ?" 

"Mr. Katzen, if you remember, I always 
said you wanted to know too much." 

"My question was addressed to you, 
Abigail," broke in Mr. Brisco, "and I must 



24 MITRE COURT. 

beg you to give 7ne your attention and return 
a serious answer." 

" I am quite serious," said the girl, and she 
looked so. 

" Then I may take it for granted you have 
thought of marriage }'' 

"Certainly — we all do." 

" Ah, the charming frankness — ah, the dear 
sex !" exclaimed Mr, Katzen. 

"If that be the case," returned Mr. Brisco, 
taking no notice of the remark, " I need not 
waste any time in preliminaries, but tell you 
at once, a gentleman has done you the honour 
of asking for your hand." 

" No honour," murmured Mr. Katzen ; 
"quite the other way. 

A smile flickered round Abigail's mouth, 
but the eyes she fixed on Mr. Brisco were 
quite grave and steady. 

" I may say at once, I consider the offer in 
many, in most respects advantageous. The 
gentleman is well-to-do ; he offers to make 
such provision as shall secure you — who 
have not a penny of fortune — a competency. 
He says further, he is much attached to 
you. 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. 25 

'* He adores you," commented Mr. Kat- 
zen. I 

" Perhaps you had better finish the ex- 
planation yourself," suggested Mr. Brisco ; 
" you appear to think my oratory tame." 

" Who then is this gentleman ?" asked 
Abigail, addressing Mn Brisco with a delight- 
ful assumption of ignorance. 

" Ask Mr. Katzen ; he is better acquainted 
with him than I." 

Thus bidden, Abigail turned towards New 
Andalusia's Consul. 

" Who is this wonderful person, Mr, Kat- 
zen ?" she asked. 

*' Why — I — I, my dearest ; who but I, your 
Karl — most devoted, most faithful !" 

She did not seem overwhelmed, and pro- 
bably Mr. Brisco was a good deal more sur- 
prised by her self-possession than her most 
devoted, most faithful. 

" But we settled all that long ago," she 
said. 

" Settled, my darling ? No — not by any 
means." 

" Have you then spoken to Abigail on this 
subject before ?" inquired Mr. Brisco. 



26 MITRE COURT. 



" Ach, yes — often !" said the girl, answer- 
ing for him. 

" Only a little — in jest," explained Mr. 
Katzen, answering for himself. 

" I do not think you were," observed 
Abigail ; " at any rate, I was in earnest." 

" Ah ! be not so hard." 

" I am only speaking the truth. I have 
told you many times, nothing in the world 
could induce me to marry you ; and I am 
glad, in Mr. Brisco's hearing, to be able to 
tell you the same thing again. I would not 
marry you if you were able to settle the 
whole of New Andalusia on me to-morrow — 
gold mines, coral reefs, and all the rest 
of it !" 

" I think, Abigail, that is scarcely the mode 
in which a proposal of marriage should be 
received and answered. I do not know much 
about such matters, but " 

"If you can teach me any form of words, 
sir, that will persuade Mr. Katzen I am 
speaking in good faith, I shall be only too 
glad to adopt it," returned Miss Weir with 
great spirit. 

" But recall our compact, dear Abigail. 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. 1-7 

When I had made a fortune — when I was 
Baron von Katzenstein — then you gave me 
leave again to prefer my suit. It has come, 
that I now have a Httle fortune, which I 
steadfastly purpose to make a great one — I 
can be Baron, if I will, ere long." 

" I don't care !" interrupted Abigail ; " all 
that signifies nothing to me. If you were 
Emperor of Germany I would not marry you 
— if you had the wealth of all the Roths- 
childs it would not tempt me. Mr. Brisco," 
she added, turning to that gentleman, "please 
make him understand I mean no. I don't 
mind having to work — I don't mind being 
poor — but I won't be asked over and over 
to marry a man I don't like — that I never 
did like — that I never shall like." 

Having finished which exhaustive confes- 
sion of faith, Abigail burst into angry tears 
and left the room. 

•' 'Tis the young man round the corner," 
said Mr. Katzen, calmly reseating himself. 
*' Dear friend, if you do not want a likely 
grocer, or long-haired organist, or consump- 
tive poet smuggled unawares into the house 
as our Abigail's husband, you had better cast 



28 MITRE COURT. 



all the weight of your influence into the scale 
of Karl Katzen, who is foolish enough to love 
your little waif, and wants to save her from 
herself." 

And thus, the ice being broken, Abigail's 
unwelcome lover talked on for nearly an hour, 
Mr. Brisco saying very little — though, if his 
face were to be taken as an index of his state 
of mind, thinking a great deal. 

At length the Consul took his departure, 

" We are going to have rain, I think," he 
said, pausing on the threshold to make the 
remark, and then he went. 

Mr. Brisco closed the door after him, shot 
the bolt, put up the chain, and was about to 
return to his own room, when, moved by 
some unaccountable impulse, he thought he 
would just look at Abigail. No sound broke 
the stillness of the old house, but after night- 
fall no sound was wont to disturb its silence. 

For all that, he stood quiet for a moment 
and listened — scarcely a mouse was to be 
heard moving behind the wainscot. He had 
never felt the silence so oppressive before, 
not even in the days ere the child came to 
him, when he lived utterly alone, utterly 



MR. KA TZEN PROPOSES. 29 

desolate, in the mansion where men and 
women suffered and rejoiced, and children 
made merry, and honoured guests trod the 
marble hall. 

Standing still on the broad landing for a 
minute, to Mr. Brisco's fancy the house 
seemed full — people coming, people going, 
trooping up the stairs, sweeping across to the 
great hall door and vanishing into the night 
— ghostlike — noiseless. 

That the desolation of the place should 
seem all at once so oppressive struck him 
with a great surprise, yet there was nothing 
really strange about the fact. In the time 
long departed when he and his sorrow resided 
there alone together, he had his sorrow for 
company — and a man with a grief is like a 
man with his love : he resents anything 
which comes between him and the absorbing 
passion ; but the years as they came and 
went had little by little dulled the sharpness 
of his grief. Though he fancied the features 
of his dead wife were clear and distinct as 
when he last saw her, it is quite possible 
that, had a miracle been performed — had he 
met her in the street — he would not quite 



MITRE COURT. 



have recognised her. What earthly land- 
scape ever looks the same to the eyes of 
middle life as it did to the sight of youth ? 
The landscape does not change, but we do. 
We go on, and we do not quite remember. 

Mr. Brisco did not quite remember the 
hard bitter features of that grief, the spell of 
which had been over him when he entered 
into possession of the house in Botolph Lane. 
The mists of time had risen between his 
sorrow and himself, and though he thought 
he saw it clearly as ever, the past at last had 
become mercifully blurred and dim — other 
objects, other hopes, other interests had 
grown as grass does over a grave, and while 
the dead past lay below, never to be totally 
forgotten, the rough clay and the upheaped 
clods were clothed with greenery, even if it 
were but the greenery of common weeds. 

And for long he really had not been quite 
alone. As the very presence of a dog is 
society, so the child kept by him at arm's 
length — the girl he sometimes through the 
whole of a day scarcely spoke to — had been 
a presence to feel — a something mentally to 
touch. Dancing through the house, making 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. 31 

believe to herself that she was receiving 
company — waking the echoes with her voice, 
contriving, managing, working — always neat, 
always bright, always cheerful, always help- 
ful, involuntarily, even, one must have missed 
such an inmate. Summer and winter, spring 
and autumn, the well-nigh silent but ever 
helpful companionship had lasted ; and now it 
was slipping away, and the full knowledge of 
what that implied struck on his heart. 

Mr. Katzen had said she would go — if the 
Consul did not take her, another was certain 
to do so. He had known this was true. But 
it had not seemed to him near or real, till a 
man able to keep a wife and make a settle- 
ment offered to marry her. 

And then she refused determinedly, not to 
say rudely — much had evidently gone before 
— and if that had been going on without his 
knowledge, what else might not be going on 
even then ! 

How still the old house was — how desolate [ 
He went back into the hall and along the 
narrow passage, and pushed open the door 
of their common livine-room. The fire was 
almost out, the subdued light of the paraffin 



32 MITRE COURT. 



lamp showed that Abigail was absent. Her 
work lay on the table just as she had put it 
down — her thimble, scissors and cotton were 
there also. Mr. Brisco looked around the 
apartment — there was a stillness that might 
be felt. 

Lifting the lamp, he carried it across the 
hall and went into all the offices on the 
ground-floor — there was no Abigail any- 
where. He passed upstairs and entered the 
offices on the first floor — darkness and silence 
reigned in each. On the landing he stood 
and thought. Every evening Abigail might 
have been absent in like manner for aught he 
knew of her movements, but still the fact 
that she was neither to be heard nor seen 
seemed a novelty he could not get over. 
Turning along another passage, he tapped at 
the door of her bed-chamber. " Abigail !" he 
said, " Abigail 1" and still no Abigail an- 
swered. 

He turned the handle and entered. Since 
she came to him a waif and a stray — since 
she lay in that illness, caused by starvation 
and terror and exposure, which followed her 
arrival in Botolph Lane — he had never once 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. 33. 

— even by accident — crossed that threshold 
before ; and now it was with a sense of 
intrusion and almost wrong-doing he raised 
his lamp and looked around the young girl's 
room. 

It was a closet rather than a room, the 
poorest, narrowest, meanest chamber in all 
the house, and yet she had made it homelike. 

The little bed with snow-white coverlet ; 
tiny dressing-table set out with a few 
ornaments that had been presents to her ; 
pictures from the illustrated papers hanging 
in fancy frames of her own manufacture on 
the walls ; her few dresses hung tidily in a 
narrow recess, and protected from dust by a 
curtain made out of some cheap print ; a shelf 
on which her boots, old and new, were 
ranged ; a few books placed on the chimney- 
piece ; a pervading odour of dead rose-leaves 
and dried lavender — that was pretty nearly 
all — yet it affected Mr. Brisco strangely. 

Since she was a very child, a poor forlorn, 
meagre atom, going about in makeshift 
clothes, none of which belonged to her save 
by gift, she had been an active, helpful 
presence in the house, giving much, asking 

VOL. III. 43 



34 MITRE COURT. 



little — and some day, soon perhaps, it might 
be she would leave it for ever. 

At that very time where could she be ? 
Once again Mr. Brisco glanced around the 
tiny room ; then, lamp still in hand, he 
passed out, closing the door behind him. 

There was but one place more he had a 
chance of finding her, for whatever the 
kitchens of Sir Christopher's house might 
have been in Sir Christopher's time, they 
could not in later days be deemed places to 
which anyone was likely of his own free-will 
to resort. Some of Mr. Brisco's tenants paid 
a moderate sum for the convenience of there 
keeping barrels, boxes, hampers, of all sorts, 
but Abigail no more affected the former 
bakehouse and larders than she did the cellar 
into which she had crept out of the piercing 
winter weather. 

Still carrying the lamp, Mr. Brisco as- 
cended the narrow staircase leading to the 
roof — the door was bolted on the inside ; 
clearly therefore Abigail could not be taking 
a comprehensive view of the City by gaslight. 
As he stood at the top of the flight he heard 
rain dashing against the door and sweeping 



MR. KA TZEN PROPOSES. 35 

bver the leads — the wet night Mr. Katzen 
had prophesied was come. Slowly Mr. 
Brisco descended the steep flight of steps ; 
when he reached the bottom, feeling sick and 
giddy, he placed the lamp on the stairs, and 
leaning against the wall, trembled violently. 

What was it memory gave him back at 
that moment ? Those nights when he had 
glided about the house like a sleep-walker, 
when the girl came and paced by his side and 
slipped her warm young hand into his and led 
him tenderly back to safety. Not singly, one 
by one, did they recur to his mind — he seemed 
to grasp them collectively : the stillness of 
the summer dawn and the bitter wind of 
March ; the chill blast of autumn, and the 
biting cold of New Year's Eves, when the 
church bells were ringing, clamouring, pealing 
a joyous welcome to the fresh comer ; and he 
— he was keeping his vigil with the dead. 

And now these vigils had ceased altogether. 
Abigail's night watches were over ; he even 
had forgotten them. How was it ? Had 
the love grown weaker, the sorrow lighter ; 
was he already old and dull ? No, surely not 
that, when he had got something else to live 



36 MITRE COURT. 



for. It was only, he said to himself, that 
another interest had so woven itself into his 
nature as to partially crush out the former 
grief. 

" A man must have some object in life," he 
muttered, "and though JieT- child deserted 

me, it was once all for him — all " 

And then he took up the lamp again with 
hands he could scarcely steady. 

" I am not well," he thought ; " something 
has pulled me down. I must try to get 
strength, or I shall not be able to enjoy my 
ofood fortune when it comes." 

And so all alone in that great house he 
went carefully, step by step, into the hall. 
He replaced the lamp on the table, and then 
(an unwonted thing for him to do) he sat 
down in Abigail's chair and began idly to 
touch the thimble, cotton, and scissors, which 
had been her tools for so many a day. 

His thoughts went back ; he thought of his 
life before she came, his life since she had 
been with him. Certainly the girl was a 
wonder — her management, her thrift, the still, 
steady industry with which she managed a 
large house, and saw it kept clean and orderly 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. yr 



on the pittance Mr. Brisco allowed for that 
purpose. Still he did not like, he knew he 
had never liked her. The very cheerfulness 
which made sunshine in the old house proved 
in itself an affront to one so enveloped in 
gloom ; but yet, sitting there in the utter 
silence, and reluctantly letting his heart tell 
truth (for the simple reason that he could not 
help himself), he confessed he could not spare 
her. If she deserted him, who was there to 
take her place ? Bereft as he was of alt 
legitimate ties, he had quite unconsciously 
dovetailed the girl into every future plan ; 
just as persons when taking a new house, or 
remaining in an old, think of some capable 
servant in connection with necessary arrange- 
ments, so, without any feeling of tenderness 
or even thankfulness towards Abigail, Mr. 
Brisco decided it would be an evil day for 
him when she left Botolph Lane — a day on 
which all the projects over which he had 
been so long brooding would be disarranged, 
if not upset. 

Well, she was not gone yet ; she might not 
go. He had no wish to reconstruct his 
chosen future in order to find a place in it 



38 MITRE COURT. 



for Mr. Katzen. Nevertheless, It might be 
that he would have to do so. 

At all events, better Mr. Katzen than any 
other likely suitor — better than any English- 
man Abigail could hitherto have had a chance 
of captivating. 

He would be bad enough, but not so bad 
as the grocer, or organist, or poet, hinted at. 
Meanwhile, where was Abigail } 

Mr. Brisco made his way again into the 
hall, and paced the marble pavement till his 
limbs were weary and his feet chill. 

" I will take down the chain," he thought 
at last, " and draw back the bolts — then she 
can let herself in ; and to-morrow I will have 
an explanation with her ; to-night I feel too 
tired and shaken." 

Slowly, and with numbed and tremulous 
hands, he unfastened the door ; he undid the 
catch and left the lock free. At the same 
moment Abigail's key shot back the wards, 
and she and Mr. Brisco stood face to face on 
the threshold. 

" Where have you been T' he asked 
harshly. 

The girl stepped in and closed the door. 



MR. KATZEN PROPOSES. 39 

" At church." 

" What induced you to go to church ?" 

" I remembered there was service at St. 
Margaret Pattens, and, as I did not know 
how long Mr. Katzen might remain here, I 
got out of the way till I imagined he must 
be gone." 

" You have not been at St. Margaret Pat- 
tens till this time of night ?" 

"No, I went a little farther to get some- 
thing for supper." 

" Are you wet ?" 

" Scarcely at all." 

" Yet it has been raining heavily." 

"Only for a short time. I was under 
shelter during the worst part of the shower." 

*' I must talk to you to-morrow. I cannot 
have you running about the streets at these 
hours." 

Abigail did not answer. She went upstairs, 
took off her hat and jacket, changed her 
shoes, bathed her face, smoothed her hair, 
washed her hands, and came down in five 
minutes ready to do the little that was 
needed. 

Mr. Brisco had disappeared ; so she set 



'4rf MITRE COURT. 

out his supper on a small tray, which she 
carried to his room. Of her purchases she 
kept nothing back for herself ; she had no 
heart to eat. 

" Is there anything more I can get you ?" 
she asked, 

" Nothing, thank you," Mr. Brisco an- 
swered. 

" Good-night, then," she said softly. 

" Good-night." 

According to custom, she fastened up the 
lower part of the house, and then, feeling 
heavy and exceeding sorrowful, went to bed. 





CHAPTER II. 



A DOUBLE SURPRISE 




HILE walkino^ up Love Lane, 
Mr. Katzen determined he would 
not return immediately to Fowkes' 
Buildings. In his eyes the night was still 
young, and he thought a stroll through the 
City streets and lanes would at once compose 
his mind and stimulate his brain. He had seen 
many countries, and could discourse fluently 
concerning the grandeur and beauty and 
desirability of every land under heaven 
except Great Britain. To hear him talk, 
any person might have imagined he adored 
scenery, that his heart was on the Rhine — 
his native, his vine-clad — and yet_ he cared 
really for no spot on earth save that bounded 
on the north, east, south, and west by 



42 MITRE COURT. 



Throgmorton and Bishopsgate and King 
William and Princes Streets. One might 
have narrowed this space, but scarcely en- 
larged it. 

" 'Tis here the business of the world is 
done," he said, gazing with his mind's eye 
comprehensively at Lombard Street and Capel 
Court. " See the huge gambling-houses, 
where men of all nations play and are 
played for. How they lose, how they gain ! 
how they cheat, and lie, and thieve ! Monte 
Carlo is a fool in comparison." 

Where a man's treasure is we know his 
heart will be also ; and it was for this reason 
Mr. Katzen liked to roam round and about 
the Royal Exchange and picture the contrast 
between midnight and midday. 

" I am so fond of reverie," he remarked 
once to Jack Jeffley. 

" He is so fond of thinking how he can 
trick somebody, I suppose he means," ob- 
served Mr. Jeffley to Frank Scott, who in 
reply only shook his head. The days were 
gone when he was ready with a word of 
excuse for Mr. Katzen. 

Pondering deeply upon the great measure 



A DOUBLE SURPRISE. 43 

of success which had been vouchsafed, in no 
boastful or arrogant spirit, but thankfully, as 
a man who, after many disappointments, hauls 
a fine salmon to shore, Mr. Katzen strolled 
into Lombard Street, and made his way 
thence into Cornhill through one of the 
numerous courts which connect those tho- 
roughfares. 

"It gets cold," he thought, as he passed 
in front of the Royal Exchange, " and feels 
damp. I will return to the Jeffley mansion. 
Though it is not amusing, it may be warm. 
How happy could we all have been there ! 
Strange! Mrs. Jeffley never asks Abigail to 
step round and spend an evening. Likes no 
woman near her, unless she is as old as Deborah 
the prophetess, and uglier than Sycorax. A 
mistake ; but it is never any good to tell a 
lady she mistakes — ^no, not even Abigail. 
Ah, here is that threatened rain !" 

He hurried his pace, and, crossing Grace- 
church Street, got into Leadenhall Market 
before the worst of the shower began to fall. 
The market was not looking its best — 
business had nearly ended ; the ground was 
dirty and strewed with all sorts of refuse; 



44 , " MITRE COURT. 



the few customers belonged to the lower 
orders. A mingled smell of live poultry and 
dead fish, of rabbits in hutches and decaying 
vegetables, of sodden straw and fresh fruit, 
rendered the place scarcely satisfactory to 
the nostrils of even a curious observer ; and 
Mr. Katzen's curiosity had been exhausted 
long previously. He knew the swans, and 
the venison, and the plovers' eggs, the 
foolishly amiable-looking white brahmas and 
the pugnacious bantams — knew the dogs and 
the pigeons and the dealers as well as he 
knew the furniture in Fowkes' Buildings. So 
he made no stay in the market, but hurried 
on to Lime Street Passage. 

There was no use trying to get into Lime 
Street. The rain was falling in torrents, so, 
being unprovided with an umbrella, he had 
to stay in comparative shelter, wedged in 
with a number of other persons. Mr. Katzen 
stood idly viewing the crowd and the rain. 
People were jostling each other, armed with 
dripping umbrellas, the sharp ribs of which 
were eternally getting into the Consul's face 
or playfully trying to force a way between 
his coat and backbone. It is not good fun 



A DOUBLE SURPRISE. 45, 

Standing up out of the rain in London ; but 
Mr. Katzen hated getting wet, with a detesta- 
tion too deep for words. 

Still the rain came down as if the windows 
of heaven were opened ; then it slackened, 
then it began again, then it showed signs of 
moderating. 

A few persons, turning up their coat-collars 
and poising their umbrellas desperately, went 
out into the dreary night. The press grew 
less. Mr. Katzen had space to stand in, 
though he was by no means solitary. Sud- 
denly he felt his coat twitched, and, turning 
to discover who had done so, saw no one 
near him but a stunted girl dressed in a limp, 
black gown, a white apron, a small checked 
shawl, and an old straw bonnet which looked 
as if it had been slept in as well as sat upon. 
Her face was in shadow, and fixed steadfastly 
on Lime Street. Mr. Katzen concluded 
some one must have twitched his clothes 
accidentally, when he felt a second twitch. 
It was the girl. Still, never glancing up at 
him, with her left hand she kept pulling his 
coat-tails with a persistency which was ex- 
asperating. 



46 MITRE COURT. 



" How dare you do that ?" said Mr. Katzen. 
" Don't venture to touch me again." 

" See them ?" asked the girl, in a hoarse 
whisper, 

Mr. Katzen knew that voice. 

" Did you see them ?" she repeated with a 
chuckle. 

" What do you mean ?" demanded the 
Consul ; " see whom ?" 

" Why, Miss Abigail and her young man," 
exclaimed Mrs, Childs' Sophia, 

Mr. Katzen made a step forward, then 
he found he did not know which way to 
follow. 

" Where are they ?" he inquired. 

" You've missed them now," she answered. 

" They were walking fast. She linked close 

up to him, and he a-holding the umbreller 

'right over her. They are sweet — she is 

taken up with him !" 

*• And who is he ?" asked Mr. Katzen, 
quivering with eagerness. 

" Who is he ? Why, the young man as is 
in the front office at Mr. Brisco's — who else ? 
I mean the office where all those wild men 
are. Many's the sore day I had rubbing 



A DOUBLE SURPRISE. 47 

them over with oil as hard as ever I could 
lay to my strength." 

" What is his name — what is he called ?" 

" I misremember now, but you know him 
— he lodges at Mrs. Jeffley's, and Miss. 
Abigail thinks there's not such another. I 
first saw them in Trinity Square, and I 
couldn't make out who she'd got hold of. 
Aunt would not believe me at first she'd 
found a beau to her mind — thought it was 
you. But lor', I knew better !" 

The tone in which Miss Sophia said this 
suggested an implication so little flattering 
that Mr. Katzen refrained from asking her 
why she knew better. 

"She's wholly wropped up in him," went 
on Mrs. Childs' niece. " I don't know why, 
because he's no such great things to look at ; 
but she is. And it is not well for maids to 
be so fond and show it. Eyes on, hands off 
— that's what's best to say. That's what my 
aunt used to say to the men when she was 
young ; that's what she bids me say if any 
fellow makes too free." 

Mr. Katzen was not given to unseemly 
mirth — not given indeed to mirth at all as a 



48 MITRE COURT. 



rule — but the vision of Sophia chastely re- 
pelling, with this formula, the advances of a 
too ardent lover, proved more than his 
gravity could stand. He broke into peal 
after peal of laughter — laughed till the tears 
ran down his cheeks, and the passers-by 
turned to see the cause of such extraordinary 
merriment. 

" Here, child !" he said at last, slipping 
half-a-crown into the girl's hand ; and then 
he walked down the passage, still laughing 
as he went. 

"Well, you are a funny one !" re- 
marked Sophia, with a mystified stare, 
while tightly clasping the coin he had given 
her. 

She could understand that — it does not 
require much intellect to grasp the meaning 
of half-a-crown. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Katzen pursued his way to 
Fowkes' Buildings, not much disconcerted. 
He had, within the last half-hour, gained a 
due he much wanted. Of course, it was 
scarcely pleasant to know for certain Abigail 
really possessed a lover, but he had always 
suspected the fact ; and now, by the help of 



A DOUBLE SURPRISE. 49 

Sophia's hints, he would be able to find out 
who he was. 

He was not aware of any new inmate added 
to Mrs. Jeffley's establishment, but fresh in- 
mates were often being added without his 
Immediate cognizance. One thing he deter- 
mined. He would put no question on the 
subject to his " best friend ;" neither would 
he go next day to Botolph Lane. Instead, 
he determined to post Mr. Brisco a note, 
asking him to call in Mitre Court. Having 
written and dropped this note into the 
nearest pillar-box, he passed softly upstairs, 
and succeeded in reaching his own rooms 
without meeting anyone. 

Only waiting to smoke one cigar, he went 
to bed and to sleep, quite unconscious of what 
the next day was to produce. 

He had not been in his office an hour, 
on the following morning, before Mr. Brisco 
appeared. 

" I have come early," he said, " because I 
think I shall have to go out of town this 
afternoon — on — business, 

" Indeed! And who, then, takes care of 
Miss Abigail ?" 

VOL. III. 44 



so MITRE COURT. 



** She will do very well," was the reply. 
^' She always gets some one to stay with her 
when I am away." 

" Still, it must be very lonely." 
" I do not think so — at least, I have never 
heard her complain of loneliness." 

" For a good reason, perhaps ; possibly she 
is not lonely because not alone." 

" She will have Miss Greaves, or some 
other female friend. But you wanted to speak 
to me — at least, I gathered as much from 
your note." 

" True, I did — I do ; I want to ask you 
something — not idly, you understand, but for 
a reason. Those wine-merchants, then, that 
have the front office — the beautiful dining- 
room — who are they ?" 

" I do not know anything more than that 
they are wine- merchants ; I have very little 
to do with them. They pay their rent and 
give no trouble. Why do you ask ?" 
" What are their names ?" 
" Linderfeld and Co." 

" That eives me not much informa- 
tion." 

" Tell me what information you require." 



A DOUBLE SURPRISE. 51 

" Are they young men, or middle-aged, or 
old." 

" Young ; the eldest about eight-and-twenty, 
I should think." 

" And always at business, always on the 
spot, always to be seen ?" 

" I can't say ; I fancy not. Their manager 
is generally there to answer inquiries. He 
seems a very steady person." 

"Ah. elderly?" 

" No, not older than his principals." 

" What a juvenile sort of establishment ! 
And how do you call him ?" 

"Scott." 

" Scott ! Did you say Scott ?" 

"Yes." 

" Scott ! What — Frank Scott ?" 

" Cannot say; I only know him as Scott." 

" But it must be Frank Scott." 

" It may be." 

" Because he lodges at Mrs. Jeffley's." 

" And if so, what then ?" 

" Why, then a good deal. He is the 
young man round the corner — the young 
man on whom Miss Weir has fixed her young 
affections." 

44—2 



52 MITRE COURT. 



" Utterly impossible !" 

" Perfectly possible. They were out to- 
gether last night — one heart, one soul, one 
umbrella." 

" Did you see them ?" 

" No ; but I heard they were out." 

" From whom did you hear ?" 

" From a friend of mine, who knows them 
both." Mr. Katzen really could not bring 
himself to say his informant was Sophia. 
" They have been seen together before 
now." 

" I think you are mistaken." 

" Think what you please, Mr. Brisco. I 
have given you a hint ; take it, or leave it, as 
you like best. If you approve the match, 
well and good ; if you do not, it will be a 
match all the same. Matters have advanced 
so far, these young lovers are the talk of the 
parish." 

" How true it is that people must go from 
home to hear news," sighed Mr. Brisco. 

" It is of no use hearing news when people 
refuse to believe them," retorted Mr. Katzen 
sharply. 

" Pardon me," said Mr. Brisco, " I do not 



A DOUBLE SURPRISE. S3 

refuse to believe. I confess, however, it 
seems to me unlikely Abigail has conceived 
so violent an attachment to a young man 
she cannot have seen at all till close on 
Christmas last year, and most likely not very 
often since." 

" Pish ! That is all you know about it," 
returned Mr. Katzen, " He has been close 
at hand for years. But, however, it does not 
signify to me. I made you an honourable 
offer, as nearest friend or guardian, or what- 
ever you choose to call yourself, to Miss 
Abigail Weir. If she and you prefer this 
youth, that is your affair. I am certainly not 
going to enter into competition with a fellow 
who comes from nobody knows where and 
belongs to nobody knows who. He had 
scarce a penny to bless himself with when he 
turned up at Jeffley's, and, if the husband 
had not taken a fancy to him, he'd often 
have been hungry enough. A poor, tame- 
spirited sneak, with not enough manliness to 
strike out for fortune. Jeffley got him a 
trumpery situation in a bill-broker's office, 
and, I dare swear, recommended him to his 
present berth." 



54 MITRE COURT. 

" Are you sure of what you say ?" 

" There you have chapter and verse, and 
you can let your adopted daughter and ward 
marry him if you Hke. I dare say it will 
suit his purpose excellently well to sit rent 
free in Botolph Lane with a wife able to 
work and make both ends meet where any- 
body else must starve. I would have placed 
her in a different position. But it is all a 
question of choice. Thank Heaven, she is 
nothing- to me now. This has proved quite 
a disillusion." And havingf worked himself 
up into a white heat of rage, Mr. Katzen tore 
an old envelope into very small bits, which 
he threw into the fire. 

" I do not think we shall do much good by 
discussing the matter further at present," 
remarked Mr. Brisco, rising. 

" I do not think we can do any good by 
discussing it again at all," said Mr. Katzen. 

" At any rate, do not condemn Abigail till 
you have heard her defence." 

"It is not material to me whether I ever 
hear her defence," was the reply. "As she 
has chosen, so let her abide." 

Mr. Brisco said nothing further ; he only 



A DOUBLE SURPRISE. 55 

sought the door. The Consul watched him 
out, and then remarked to himself with a 
grin: 

" The sly little lady will have a fine time 
with the old man ! I think I have trumped 
that trick of yours, Mr. Frank Scott. That 
was a very nice game indeed you were having 
all to yourself." 

And then he too went out, not because he 
had anything very special to do, but rather 
for the reason that he felt hearing how 
" things were going " in the neighbourhood 
of Bartholomew Lane might brace him up a 
litde. 

" That business of my Abigail looks more 
ugly by daylight," he reflected. " Neverthe- 
less, now I see the cards I ought to be able 
to win the game." 

After he had lunched, by no means lightly, 
he took a more favourable view of the matter, 
and returning to Mitre Court mentally at 
peace with Abigail, at any rate, he was 
surprised to see proceeding up the staircase 
before him a pordy female figure, arrayed in 
good and fashionable garments. 

Ladies were articles not plentiful in Mitre 



56 MITRE COURT. 



Court — articles, if the truth must be told, not 
wanted in Mitre Court. Not a man in the 
district ever desired to see a woman during 
business hours ; certainly Mr. Katzen did 
not. If Diana herself had turned up Milk 
Street, he would have liked to give her in 
charge. Therefore the vision of this strange 
lady merely moved him to wonder where she 
could be going. 

" To Bindel on the third floor, no doubt," 
he thought, Bindel being a poor devil certain 
to figure in the Gazette ere long — and then, 
even as he thought, the lady stopped at his 
own door and entered. 

She was asking the clerk when he would 
return at the moment Mr. Katzen appeared. 
Hearing her voice, "Why, Mrs. Jeffley !" 
he exclaimed. 

" Yes," she said, a little fluttered. 

" Pray walk in," he entreated. " I followed 
you upstairs, and, would you believe it ? failed 
to recognise you. Now sit down, do, and tell 
me how you like my new office." 

She looked around with a far-away, un- 
interested glance. 

" Mr. Katzen," she said, bringing her eyes 



A DOUBLE SURPRISE. 57 

back to her lodger. " I have come to tell you 
something." 

*' Good," he added. " Good, I am sure!" 

" You won't think it so ; but I could not 
find it in my conscience to keep such a story 
from you," 

" Your conscience must always be right, as 
you are — ever," replied Mr. Katzen. " Now, 
dear Mrs Jeffley, I consume myself with 
impatience. What is it ?" 

" I have a very shocking truth to tell you." 

" Is that so ? Ah ! but still it would be 
best I should hear what that truth may 
be." 

" Abigail Weir is a thief!" 

Mr. Katzen was surprised, as well he 
might be. Who that had seen Mrs. Jeffley's 
face, and heard Mrs. Jeffley's tone, could 
have failed to be surprised ; but he was not 
a man to show his discomfiture. 

" None should know that better than I," 
he said. *' The dear thief, she has stolen 
away this whole heart of mine," 

" I am not talking about hearts," said Mrs. 
Jeffley, provoked, " What she took was far 
worse than hearts." 



58 MITRE COURT. 



'* But what could be worse ?" asked Mr. 
Katzen. 

This shot had certainly taken him un- 
awares, and he was trying to gain time, in 
order that he might steady his senses, "What 
did the little baggage annex ? A man's soul ?" 

" You are quite right in calling her a 
baggage. I could not have ever believed in 
such wickedness." 

" After my experience, I can believe in 
any wickedness. That is no trouble to me — 
none at all. So, what has this sinful Abigail 
stolen ?" 

"A pound of sausages, a pork-pie, and 
some brawn !" 

Mr. Katzen looked at Mrs. Jeffley as if he 
thought she had gone suddenly mad. Then 
he beofan to lauQrh. 

" This is beautiful," he said. 

" It is well you think so. She would have 
stolen more, had she got the chance." 

" But, my dear madam, reflect. You may 
deem what you are stating a joke ; but such 
jokes often end in serious earnest." 

" I am not joking. I never was in more 
serious earnest in my life." 



A DOUBLE SURPRISE. 59. 

" But who told you Abigail stole a pork-pie 
and a pound of sausages ?" 

" A person on whose truthfulness I can 
thoroughly depend." 

*' Mrs. Childs ?" suggested Mr. Katzen. 

Mrs. Jeffley inclined her head. 

"Well, really, my kind friend, I do not 
want to say anything offensive ; but I think 
you ought to have more sense." 

'^ I know, like Mr. Jeffley, you are 
prejudiced against Mrs, Childs, who is really 
a most excellent woman, and who, though she 
cannot help knowing Miss Weir to be her 
enemy, kept all this to herself till she felt it 
was wrong to hold her tongue any longer." 

" I am not prejudiced against Mrs. Childs, 
who may be a paragon of virtue for aught I 
can tell ; but still it seems hazardous to accuse 
a girl of theft, and such a theft, on the word 
of a charwoman." 

" That is very true," agreed Mrs. Jeffley ; 
" and as it would be my wish and is my 
endeavour to act fair by everyone, I would 
not have taken Mrs. Childs' bare word about 
the matter ; but I asked Miss Weir herself,, 
and she confessed what I had heard was 



6o MITRE COURT. 



right. You can't go further than that, Mr. 
Katzen, now can you ?" 

" Miss Weir confessed to you that she 
stole those thino-s " 

" With her own mouth," said Mrs. Jeffley, 
referring to the confession, not the theft. 

" From whom ?" 

" From Philpot in Crutched Friars." 

"And why did she steal them ?" 

" That is not for me to guess." 

" And when did she do it ? Dear Mrs. 
Jeffley, I am perplexed beyond imagination — 
as you have told me so much, tell me all." 

"It must have been in the summer after 
she planted herself in Botolph Lane, be- 
cause " 

" Good Lord !" interrupted Mr. Katzen, 
"has all this fuss been made over what she 
did when a child Y' 

" She was old enouo^h to know better." 

" Can you forgive me if I throw back 
that remark "^ Though still so young and 
charming, you are old enough to know better. 
What child is there who has not stolen some- 
thing T 

" Gracious, how you talk, Mr. Katzen I I 



A DOUBLE SURPRISE. 6r 

am sure my children never took a penny that 
did not belong to them." 

"We won't argue as to whether they did 
or not — you are an interested witness ; and, 
at any rate, they never were hungry." 

" Poor darlings ! they would starve before 
they would touch what did not belong to 
them." 

'* All of which proves nothing, except that 
they are more virtuous or more foolish than 
Abigail." 

" Oh ! Of course you can see no fault in 
her. Well, I have only done my duty; and 
if hereafter you regret " 

" I will come to you for sympathy, dear 
Mrs. Jeffley. You are all that is good and 
kind, but I think — yes, I do think, you have 
made a mistake this time." 

" I may — but I can't see it. I should not 
care for a wife who had done such a thing ; 
but foreigners, I am aware, have strange 
notions about many things." 

" They differ from English notions, cer- 
tainly. After all, England is not the uni- 
verse." 

" I do not think it can be a bad notion 



■62 MITRE COURT. 



anywhere^ that honesty is honesty. Even 
Abigail saw she need not expect to come to 
Fowkes' Buildings again." 

" Poor Abigail !" 

" You need not pity her so much. When 
I asked her, putting the question as nicely 
as I could, she said quite short, ' If you tell 
me who told you, I will tell you if it is true/ 
' To be plain,' I answered, ' it was Mrs. 
Childs.' ' Mrs. Childs,' she repeated ; ' now 
I wonder how she got to know ? Yes, Mrs. 
Jeffley, it is quite true, and as you might not 
feel comfortable for the future in having me 
about your house, I won't come to it again.' 
And then and there she laid down the parcel 
of work I had looked out for her, and, without 
another word but * Good-morning,' walked 
out. 

"And all this took place " 

" Just an hour after breakfast this very day." 

" So that figuratively the Peri, who has 
been shut out of Paradise, is now sitting in 
the old house with her back-hair down, cry- 
ing her eyes out." 

"If you are going to make fun of me, Mr. 
Katzen " 



A DOUBLE SURPRISE. 6^ 



" Not for the world. I shall go round to 
Botolph Lane, and after admonishing the 
culprit suitably, speak some little word of 
comfort " 

" If I had thought you were likely to take 
the matter as you have done, I would have 
stayed at home and attended to my own busi- 
ness." 

" And who attends to business so well as 
you ? What ! must you go, dear Mrs. Jeffley ?" 

" I never ought to have come," she an- 
swered ; " but there, when a girl, pretty or 
plain, is in question, the men are all alike." 

" Mrs. Jeffley — her confession of faith," 
said Mr. Katzen to himself as the incensed 
Maria flounced out of the office ; and, a good 
deal amused by the shocking story he had 
heard, he despatched Mr. Rothsattel to the 
West End and sat down at his writing-table, 
meaning to grapple with a mass of corre- 
spondence which had fallen into arrear. 

He had been so engaged for some hours, 
when his attention was attracted by a modest 
tapping at the outer door, which had then 
been going on for several minutes, and re- 
sembled in its character an apologetic cough. 



64 MITRE COURT. 



" Come in !" shouted Mr. Katzen ; but no 
one appeared. 

" Hang you, whoever you are !" muttered 
the Consul, rising and crossing the outer 
room. 

With an impatient jerk he opened the door 
and beheld— Mrs. Childs ! 



.d 





CHAPTER III. 



MRS. CHILDS STORY, 




>ES — it was Mrs. Childs, well dressed, 
clean, cheerful, evidently extremely 
glad to see Mr. Katzen, and looking 
as though she expected the sight of her to 
prove equally pleasing to him. 

" Is anybody dead ?" exclaimed the Consul, 
whose knowledge of the dear woman was so 
exhaustive, he believed that only her neigh- 
bour's misfortune could produce such extra- 
ordinary hilarity. 

"Dead! no, sir, the Lord be thanked," 
answered Mrs. Childs piously. " There's 
nobody dead nor thinking of dying so far as 
I am aware." 

"Good," said Mr. Katzen; but as he re- 
served an opinion, added : " How is Mrs. 

VOL. III. 45 



66 MITRE COURT. 



Jeffley ?" Though he had lately seen that 
lady, he could not tell what might have 
happened in the interim. 

" Mrs, Jeffley, sir," returned her hench- 
woman, " is in her usual." 

" And the family ?" 

" Are in their usual," said Mrs. Childs 
with an engaging smile. 

" Humph !" grunted Mr. Katzen with 
hands deep in his pockets ; then : " Won't 
you come in ?" he added suddenly. Hitherto, 
he had thought all that had to be communi- 
cated might best be spoken on the threshold. 

" If not ill-conveniencing you, sir." 

'' Inconvenience ! Lord — no; always happy 
to spare time for old friends, and you are a 
very old friend, Mrs. Childs." 

" And though it is too much honour for a 
gentleman like you to say 'friend' — faithful, 
sir. 

"Indeed! yes," said Mr. Katzen, who 
knew not whether Mrs. Childs meant to 
invest her own savings, or tell him of some 
much greater person who hankered to do so. 
" Pray walk in," he added with a wave of his 
hand. 



M7?S. CHILD S STORY. 67 

But Mrs. Childs was not to be persuaded 
to take precedence. 

" After you, sir," she said, " I hope I 
knows my place." 

"Well, if it must be so," Mr. Katzen 
answered, leading the way into his especial 
sanctum, which, as Mrs. Childs subsequently 
remarked, was " kep' by one as knew her 
business." 

" It could have been no cleaner if I'd had 
the doing for him myself," she declared ; and 
as she looked around at the various evidences 
of prosperity which the new Consul had 
gathered around him, a yearning regret seized 
her for not in bygone times having paid 
sufficient court to this rising sun, and secured 
a chance of bettering herself. "But there! 
lor', who'd ever a thought it ?" she mentally 
considered, and so resigned herself to the 
slavery of Fowkes' Buildings. 

"And now, Mrs. Childs," began Mr. 
Katzen, when he had at length, after some 
difficulty, induced his visitor to take a chair, 
" what can I do for you ?" 

" Thanking you humbly, sir, in a manner of 
speaking — nothing. I am poor, and have to 

45—2 



6S MITRE COURT. 



work hard ; but good is no name for the 
lady I serve, and owing to her I can make 
both ends meet, for which I feel truly grate- 
ful. No, Mr. Katzen, begging pardon for 
making so free, I did not take the liberty of 
coming here this afternoon because I wanted 
any one thing for myself" 

" For whom, then, do you want some- 
thing ?" asked Mr. Katzen. 

" In a general way, sir, if you'll excuse me, 
I don't want nothink for nobody." 

" But in a particular way, Mrs. Childs ?" 

" It would be useless for me to deny, sir — 

more especially to a gentleman so clever as 

yourself — I think there is a party to be served, 

a party as hasn't been too well treated, 

perhaps ; but that's as it may be " 

"What sort of a party?" inquired the 
Consul. 

"One I'm sure you wouldn't like to see 
put upon," returned Mrs. Childs after the 
manner of an oracle. 

"Who is the gentleman somebody is 
'putting upon ' ?" 
" It is a lady." 
"A lady! Mrs. Jeffley .?— no .?" for Mrs. 



MRS. CHILD S' STORY. 69 

Childs shook her head and pursed up her 
mouth. " Then who in Heaven's name is 
she ?" 

"Ah, sir, you ought not to need to ask." 
" I know that, but I must ask — for one 
reason, Mrs. Childs, because my time is 
money. Now, who is the lady who is being- 
put upon ?" 

" Miss Abigail Weir," answered Mrs. 
Childs sullenly. 

She had intended to make a point, and 
Mr. Katzen by his impatience spoiled the 
whole situation. 

" Soh ! And who is putting upon her ?" 
" A many, as far as I can make out." 
" Then why don't you go and tell her so ?" 
" Ah, sir ! clever as she thinks herself, she'll 
need somebody far and away cleverer still to 
see her through this." 

" See her through what ?" asked Mr. Kat- 
zen, with an uneasy memory of the pound of 
sausages and adjuncts mentioned by Mrs. 
Jeffley. 

"What she is being done out of." 

At this point the Consul grew desperate. 

" See, Mrs. Childs," he said, " you came 



70 MITRE COURT. 



I suppose, to tell me something. Hurry up, 
like a good soul. Don't let us go on playing 
as the children at cross questions and crooked 
answers, but say what you have got to say in 
a breath. I won't interrupt you." 

This was about the last concession Mrs. 
Childs desired. 

Dialogue was her forte. She had never 
put the fact in plain language to herself, for 
true genius is generally modest, but the con- 
viction pervaded her whole soul. 

Nevertheless, her sense of duty was strong. 
She would essay narrative. Even in that, 
something told her that she could make a 
hit. 

" You are perhaps aware, sir," thus she 
began, " that a little while ago Mrs. Jeffley 
got a cook to suit her." 

Mr. Katzen inclined his head. 

"■ She was a first-rate cook, fit for any 
nobleman's kitchen. She had been used to 
good service, and was altogether, as I often 
told Mrs. Jeffley, another sort from anything 
we were accustomed to see in Fowkes' 
Buildinofs." 

" Onefor Mrs. Jeffley, "thought Mr. Katzen. 



J/i?5. CHILD S' STORY. 71 

*' The mistress was greatly taken with her, 
and, indeed, I might say she was seemingly 
without a fault. Many's the time I looked at 
her and wondered to myself what could have 
brought her down so low." 

"Another for Mrs. J.," considered Mr. 
Katzen. 

" She had lived with the best of families, 
and showed me characters that might have 
touched a heart of stone. One night it all 
came out — she was subject to fits. She was 
took with one while she was broiling a 
salmon cutlet for Captain Hassell's supper, 
and went off all of a sudden. I happened to 
have stayed late that night. It seemed as if 
it was to be, and without disturbing Mrs. 
Jeffiey, I sent Sophiar, who chanced to have 
come round to say a word to me, for a 
doctor, and dished up the cutlet, and did 
what I could for Mrs. Roddy." 

" Meaning by Mrs. Roddy, I presume, the 
lady addicted to fits ?" interposed Mr. Katzen 
in search of information. 

" Ah, indeed, and that is she, poor soul !— 
she do suffer awful — as truthfully I can bear 
witness." 



72 MITRE COURT. 



" Was she able to stay on in Fowkes* 
Buildings ?" hurriedly put in Mr. Katzen, who 
feared that having shunted Mrs. Childs off 
on a fresh line of rails she might, unless 
stopped, go on till night. 

" No. Mrs. Jeffley spoke to her very kind 
but plain — she put the case quite right. 'You 
see, Mrs. Roddy,' says she — — " 

" Pardon me, Mrs. Childs, but are these 
interesting details leading us on, or back, to 
Miss Weir ?" 

" To Miss Weir, and none other ; because 
if it had not so happened for Mrs. Roddy 
to be taken with the fit that night, she might 
never have come to me, and if she had not 
come to me, ten chances to one she would 
never have set eyes on Miss Abigail " 

" Oh ! she set eyes on Miss Abigail, did 
she ?" 

" Yes, sir — the way of it was this. When 
Mrs. Jeffley said, ' Of course it is hardly your 
fault, Mrs. Roddy, though I do think you 
ought to have told you were given to go off 
at a minute's notice ; so, although I can't have 
you put in your month — for fits are a risk I 
couldn't run, being worse than sudden death, 



MRS. CHILD S' STORY. j^ 



in a manner of speaking, since that's only 
once and done with — I'll give you your full 
wages and a trifle over,' the question came 
up, where was the poor woman to go. She 
had a brother far away in the country, but he 
is married and has a houseful of children. 
' No, Mrs. Childs,' she said, and she was cry- 
ing, ' I can't go there, for Hannah ' (that's her 
brother's wife, you understand) ' takes no sort 
of control over either boys or girls. What to 
do I don't know, for I have spent most of my 
savings paying for lodgings and a bit to put 
in my lips while out of place, which I have 
been more nor half time, and money melts 
fast when you are taking out of your hoard 
constant ; and what's to become of me the 
Lord only knows.' So, sir, I couldn't stand 
that ; it hurt me like, to think of one who 
ought to have been very differently placed, 
having no roof to put her head under, and 
I said, ' Now, my dear, what you had best 
do is come to me. We'll all make shift to- 
gether somehow, and I'll only charge you a 
trifle, for I'd think it a sin to impose on any- 
body so afflicted.' Perhaps I ought not to 
have done it, sir, but I'm that feeling I 



74 MITRE COURT. 



seemed I couldn't abide the notion of her 
being driven out to look for a shelter." 

" The transaction reflects the highest credit 
on all concerned," remarked Mr. Katzen ; 
"and thus Mrs. Roddy now resides with you 
and your niece. You are all one happy 
family." 

" She's just like one of ourselves, only 
more so," agreed Mrs. Childs. 

"And where does Miss Weir come in?" 
asked the Consul. 

"Well, sir, it happened in this way. I 
had been out of an errand for Mrs. Jeffley, 
and I was stepping along brisk, when I met 
Miss Weir walking as fast as she could go. 
She did not seem to see me, and if she had 
she wouldn't have spoken. Perhaps you 
know, sir," added Mrs. Childs parenthetically, 
"that Miss Weir has misjudged me cruel. I 
never had a thought in my heart but for her 
good. It was not fitting, and I'll say so to 
my dying day, for a young lady to put herself 
to do the sort of things she did, demeaning 
herself and everybody belonging to her, and 
taking the bread out of people's mouths 
bound to work for their livings ; not that it 



iT//?5. CHILDS' STORY. 75 

signified to me, sir, in the least — being 
fortunate enough to step into a better place 
than the old house, and find a better mistress 
than Mr. Brisco ever was a master." 

" No better mistress than your merits 
deserve, Mrs. Childs," said Mr. Katzen 
jDolitely. " And now, if I may inquire 
without breaking the thread of your narrative, 
when did the momentous meeting with Miss 
Weir take place .'^" 

" When, sir ? Why, no later agone than 
this morninof as ever was." 

" Indeed, and what happened after she 
passed you ?" 

"Why, I just took a look back at her, and 
turned into Fowkes' Buildings, and there, up 
the passage, who should I see, standing stiff 
as a statute, but Mrs. Roddy — her eyes were 
all of a stare, and she seemed transfixed. 

*' ' For the Lord's sake, what's the matter 
with you ?' I said. ' Do you feel like going 
off into another fit 1' 

" She didn't take any notice, except to say 
in a dazed kind of way, which made me feel 
queer all over : 

" ' Who is she — who is she ?' 



76 MITRE COURT. 



"'Who's who?' I asked, thinking she was 
a bit off her head, 

" ' Why, that young lady — you could not 
help meeting her.' 

" ' I met nobody I know, except Abigail 
Weir.' 

"'Weir, Weir,' she says, throwing up her 
hands. ' Yes, that was the name of the 
man Miss Olive married — I could have 
sworn she was Miss Olive, as I remember 
her twenty odd years ago. It was like 
meeting a ghost !' " 

" This grows interesting," commented Mr. 
Katzen. 

" I was surprised, sir, you may be sure, as 
well I might be ; and saying to myself, 
• There's something behind all this,' I told 
Mrs. Roddy to stay where she was while I 
ran indoors. She was on her way to see Mrs. 
Jeffley, but she seemed to have forgotten all 
that ; and as I found Mrs. Jeffley was rather 
put out about something, I took Mrs. Roddy 
back to my place as soon as I could. Poor 
thing, she was all of a tremble, and as white 
as ashes — so I got her into a chair and sent 
Sophiar for a drop of unsweetened gin. After 



MJ^S. CHILDS' STORY. 77 

a while she told me how she once lived in a 
clergyman's family down in the country — not 
a poor sort of clergyman, but one as kept up 
an establishment and a suite of servants, and 
had carriages and riding horses, and such 
like ; you know what I mean, sir." 

" Precisely," said Mr. Katzen. " A true 
descendant of the first apostles," 

" He was something high," went on Mrs. 
Childs, "and he and his wife consorted with 
the best, and they had money to back them 
up, and hearts to spend their money." 

" ' Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven,' " 
remarked the Consul. 

" They had everything, at any rate, to fit 
them for it. He hardly did any work at all — 
left preaching to curates and such like, but 
paid them liberal, and now and then had 
them to dinner. He was affable to every- 
body, rich and poor, but knew how to keep 
his distance, and expected other people to 
keep their distance too." 

" What an admirable person!" 

"He had one daughter, but never a son ; 
even in this world, sir, you see, sir, there's 
mostly a drawback somewhere." 



78 MITRE COURT. 



" Too true, Mrs. Childs. Often it is 
having a son proves the trouble. And what 
was the name of this divine who had only 
one fair daughter ?" 

" Sandworth, sir ; and the daughter wasn't 
fair, but dark as she could be." 

" Handsome though, I suppose." 

" A many thought her so, but that might 
be on account of her money ; she was reported 
to be worth her weight in golden guineas." 

Mr. Katzen had tried silence and he had 
tried speech ; now in despair he again 
relapsed into silence. Mrs. Childs waited, 
but as he did the same, she was forced to 
proceed. 

" Lords and baronets were after the young 
lady ; she might have had the pick of the 
county, for though her temper was short, her 
father's purse was long. Her days were 
spent in one gaiety after another — not a 
thing you could name but she had a hand in ; 
and the father and mother were so doting on 
her they could not see a black feather about 
their darling." 

Even this sentence failed to elicit any 
remark from Mr. Katzen — no doubt he re- 



AIRS. CHILD S' STORY. 79 

membered there had been other parents who 
felt sure their young crows were white. 

" So there was this one, and that one and 
the other," resumed Mrs. Childs, after she 
had waited in vain for a single clap of 
encouragement, " hanging about the house 
for a smile or a word from Miss Olive ; but 
she never seemed to favour one more than 
another. At last a circus came to the county 
town, and though Mr. and Mrs. Sand worth 
would not go to see plays, they went to see 
the horse-riding, and so did the daughter. 
There was one handsome and finely-put- 
together man, as rode splendid. He was a 
sight to behold ! While the circus stayed, 
Miss Sand worth contrived to go with some 
one nearly every afternoon. Then it went 
away, and before long the young lady was 
missing." 

" Gone with the individual who was a sight 
to behold ?" hazarded Mr. Katzen. 

" Gone after him, sir," corrected Mrs. 
Childs. " He did not want her, if all 
accounts be true. It was he wrote to the 
father where she was " 

" Well ?" asked Mr. Katzen. 



MITRE COURT. 



" There and then the father cast her off 
Hke an old shoe. Mrs. Roddy says the way 
that clergyman went on was shameful. He 
called his dau2:hter all the names he could 
lay his tongue to, cursed her up hill and down 
dale, and wished dreadful things might happen 
to himself if he ever spoke to her again, or 
left her a penny of fortune. And you know, 
sir, however the daughter might have acted, 
that wasn't right for a father " 

" I presume the gentleman in tights and 
spangles was Mr. Weir." 

" So I'm given to understand " 

" And our friend Miss Abigail is his 
child ?" 

" His child. You see the way of it was 
this, sir. He married Miss Olive Sandworth 
against his judgment ; but when the old 
gentleman wouldn't take her back, what else 
was he to do ? For a while they didn't get 
on so badly — though it must have been a sore 
change for her, even if the mother did send 
money on the sly. At first he earned a good 
bit ; but after a while he met with an accident, 
and could ride no more, and the mother died, 
and the help from her stopped too. After 



MRS. CHILD S' STORY. 8i 



that, Mrs. Roddy could tell me nothing further, 
except that Mr. Sandworth — who died about 
a year ago, worth thousands and tens of thou- 
sands — left every sixpence to his sister, a 
widow ; and there's all the money poor Miss 
Abigail ought to have had — gone, as you 
may say, to a stranger. It seemed to me as 
if I couldn't contain myself when I remem- 
bered the night that dear child came among 
us. Mr. Sandworth must have been made of 
wrought-iron— ^for though his daughter might 
have offended him, the innocent lamb had done 
no wrong." 

"It does seem very hard ; but I am afraid 
neither you nor I, Mrs. Childs, can set the 
world to rights." 

" Ah, sir ! the world is in better hands than 
ours," said Mrs. Childs piously. 

" We are bound to believe so," answered 
the Consul ; " but it must often try your faith 
to see things going quite contrary to the way 
you want them." 

Not having a platitude ready at the mo- 
ment, Mrs. Childs fell back on the original 
question. 

" Now, sir, I've got that off my mind, 

VOL. III. 46 



82 MITRE COURT. 



Lord be thanked, so I'll go. I can creep to 
bed to-night with a light heart, for I know 
you'll see that Miss Abigail gets justice." 

" You have told me a truly interesting 
story," said Mr. Katzen politely ; "but as for 
getting justice done, I fear that is beyond me." 

" Why, sir, ought not whatever there was 
to have come to her ?" 

" Perhaps ; but unfortunately it did not. 
Mr. Sandworth left it to this lady " 

" Who is as rich as a Jew." 

" Being rich will not make her any the 
more ready to part with that she has got ; 
but I will think over the affair. I should like 
to serve Miss Weir, though I suppose Mr. 
Francis Scott is by rights the person who 
ought to take up such a business." 

"Why, sir?" 

Mrs. Childs asked the question with an 
expression of surprised innocence that de- 
lighted the Consul. 

"If Miss Weir be attached to Mr. Scott, 
and Mr. Scott be attached to Miss Weir, 
who has so good a right to look after the 
young lady's interests .-^ No one could look 
after them so well." 



MRS. CHILD S' STORY. 83 

*' Lord, sir ! who ever could have put that 
fooHsh notion into your head ?" 

"Well — between friends, you know, there 
need be no secrets — it was your intelligent 
niece." 

" Sophiar ?" 

" Sophiar !" repeated Mr. Katzen, " and 
none other." 

" The young fool !" said Mrs. Childs, with 
conviction. It seemed a hard saying, but 
it was forced out of her. "And after all 
my warnings, too. ' Whatever you do, my 
dear,' — my very words, sir — ' never let such 
a thing pass your lips.' Mr. Scott indeed ! 
But wait till I get home, and I'll give her 
such a talking to as she won't forget in a 
hurry." 

" I do not think I would do that, Mrs. 
Childs. We must all speak to somebody, 
and who could Sophia have found so safe to 
speak to as myself i*" 

" That's very true, sir ; but she ought to 
have held her tongue as I charged her. It's 
a small member, the Bible says ; still, it's big 
enough to cause wars and rumours of wars, 
and if she doesn't learn to keep it in check 

46 — 2 



MITRE COURT. 



while she's young, she'll maybe come to want 
bread when she's old." 

" I hope not," said Mr. Katzen, " for I 
consider her a most entertaining person." 

"She ought to be beholden to you, I'm 
sure, sir, for you've never seen her at her 
best, nor heard her neither. I'm sure, of a 
night when I go home tired, it's as good as a 
play to listen to her. Mrs. Roddy says, 
* Why don't you try to get her on the stage ? 
Many a one would give pounds to have 
her.' Ah ! she's a good girl. I had not 
been in a minute before she told me of your 
kindness, for which I am sure I return you 
many thanks, sir," added Mrs. Childs, curtsey- 
ing gracefully. " She said you went away 
a-laughing, but I little thought what you'd 
been a-laughing at." 

"Well, don't scold her — she has done no 
harm. And I will consider about Miss Weir, 

and " here he pressed a sovereign into 

Mrs. Childs' hand, spite of her " Oh, please, 
sir — no, I couldn't think of taking a farthing, 
I'm sure if I could serve the young lady, I 
shouldn't mind what trouble I took. I'd get 
up at any hour, and so would Sophiar — she 



MRS. CHILD S' STORY. 85 

was always partial to Miss Weir, and no 
wonder." 

" I remember how much attached you 
always were to the young lady," said Mr. 
Katzen. " How pleasantly you always spoke 
to and of her. By-the-bye, what is that 
funny story you have been telling Mrs. 
Jefifley, about some sausages and brawn ?" 

" Lor, sir," exclaimed Mrs. Childs, " you 
don't mean to say Mrs. Jeffley has been going 
over all that to you ! The worst of the missus 
is, nobody can say anything to her in the 
way of a joke, but she takes it in earnest. 
I declare I must have been as foolish as 
Sophiar to let slip a word of the matter. I 
am that vexed I could bite my tongue out, if 
biting would do any good, which it won't. 
The remark dropped out of my mouth care- 
less like, and I never thought she'd take any 
notice of it." 

"What you said was true enough, how- 
ever, I suppose." 

"It was true in a manner of speaking; 
for if there's one way I am more dependable 
than another, it is in the matter of being 
exact. Still, it was spoke casual. But, believe 



86 MITRE COURT. 



me or not, sir, Mrs. Jeffley took the whole 
thing as if it was ever so. Poor Miss Abigail 
might have been the biggest thief in London 
— and it was just a simple matter. No harm 
meant or done. I would not for worlds such 
a foolish story had passed my lips." 

" I have a notion it was a pity," answered 
Mr. Katzen. " However, it's done, and can't 
be undone." 

" No, it can't be undone. Words spoken 
is like water spilt — you can't get either of 
them back again." 

Having delivered herself of which truism 
Mrs. Childs, tightly grasping the sovereign 
she meant to retain unshared with Mrs. 
Roddy, curtseyed to the door, where a sudden 
idea striking her, she paused and said : 

" Begging your pardon, sir ; but if ever 
you should want a person to do for you, I 
hope you won't forget me. Early or late, I'd 
think it a pleasure to wait on you." 

" How about Mrs. Jeffley, in that case ?" 
he asked. 

*' Well, sir, I hope I need not tell you, 1 
am that fond of Mrs. Jeffley my inclination 
would be to stay with and serve her, hand 



M/?S. CHILD S' STORY. 87 



and foot, as long as I was able to get about. 
But it is not right of any of us to follow our 
own inclination and to become, when we get 
past our work, chargeable to the parish. 
We've duties, sir ; and I consider mine is to 
myself and Sophiar. Mrs. Jeffley would be 
the first to acknowledge that, and to say, ' If 
ever you have a chance of bettering yourself, 

take it.' And besides, sir " Here Mrs. 

Childs drew a step nearer Mr. Katzen and 
dropped into a whisper and mystery, "Jef- 
fleys' ain't what it was ; there's coming and 
there's going, but there's more going than 
there's coming. I see what I see — though 
perhaps it's not my place either to see or 
hear — but a word has been spoken. It was 
said, and not so long ago, Mrs. Jeffley had 
got 'uppish' — such a wicked story! For if 
there ever was one humble and lowly, it is 
my good missus ; so you understand there 
might come a time when she would feel even 
me a burden, and be glad to know I was 
serving one she thinks so much of as she 
does of you. I can cook, sir, well !" added 
Mrs. Childs cheerfully ; "and in a manner of 
speaking there's nothing comes amiss to me. 



88 MITRE COURT. 



So I thought I'd make so bold as to ask you 
to bear me in mind." 

" Certainly, Mrs. Childs — certainly, I will 
bear you in mind," answered the Consul, with 
great politeness. " And now, if you'll excuse 
me, I 7;/2/i-/' write my letters. Good-evening;" 
and Mr, Katzen joyfully shut her out. 

But he wrote no letters. He walked up 
and down the inner office till his clerk re- 
turned, when he locked up his papers and 
prepared for departure, 

" Shall I go round and see how the 
charming Abigail is amusing herself ?" he 
considered, " or return to Fowkes' Buildings 
and run the chance of another interview with 
Mrs, Jeffley, who, says popular report, 'grows 
uppish.' No, I will take me to the play. It is 
long since I have seen a play. Perhaps 'tis 
that makes me thick, that I know not either 
what ought to be done, or how to do it." 






CHAPTER IV. 

"I LOVE YOU." 

)F Mr. Katzen had not paid his 
money " to go to the play," he 
might have chanced, quite free of 
charge, to see a domestic drama of great 
interest put on the boards in Botolph Lane. 

It was nearly seven o'clock before the 
offices were closed, since, much to Frank 
Scott's disgust, Mr. Fulmer found many 
things to see to and speak about on his way 
from Dunstan's Hill to Hamilton Place. 

He often did so now. Owing to some 
cause — sufficient, no doubt, to him, but 
aggravating to other people — he was de- 
voting himself to business with such zeal as 
he had never previously been known to 
evince. 



90 MITRE COURT. 



At last he went — at last ; and Frank, after 
turning down the gas, left the office with the 
intention of going at once to Fowkes' Build- 
ings in search of tea. 

For a moment he paused in the hall, 
perhaps with a faint hope of seeing Abigail. 
In like manner he paused most evenings, 
only to meet disappointment. In Mr. Brisco's 
house, Abigail did not intend any chance 
meetings to take place. 

For a waif and a stray, the girl owned a 
fine sense of honour — a sense as strong as 
that held theoretically by many worthy 
people. Since her sternly virtuous decision, 
indeed, she had rarely met Mr. Scott any- 
where, even by accident — their encounter on 
the preceding evening having been as unex- 
pected as agreeable. Now and again they 
ran across each other — living almost within 
pistol-shot, and neither being a hermit, how 
could it happen otherwise ? but in the old 
house he never saw her, save as any other 
tenant might. 

Her lover knew he could not have wished 
her to act differently, and yet so contra- 
dictory are young men that he lingered every 



''I LOVE you:' 91 



night in the hope that she might appear. 
The very sight of her would have refreshed 
him after Mr. Fulmer's endless questioning 
and inspection. He was tired and irritable, 
yet, as he stood there, the peace of the old 
house seemed to fall around and enfold him 
— to lay a soothing hand on his heart and 
still its anxieties, for the time, to rest. 

How quiet it was ! Upstairs, the woman 
who came in each night and morning to tidy 
up the offices was clearing away the accu- 
mulated dust and dirt of another day ; but the 
doors were closed, and he could hear no 
sound of busy broom or noisy scrubbing- 
brush. 

The house might have been tenanted by 
the dead. It was a strange abode, silent and 
lonely as some country churchyard at mid- 
night. In the midst of a great city, there 
yet entered no echo of the world's noise. 
Somehow, as he stood, the fancy struck 
Frank that in its stately separation from the 
surroundinof meanness and turmoil it was 
like some great soul on the earth, but not of 
the earth ; associating with things vile, yet 
remaining unstained by them ; keeping itself 



MITRE COURT. 



from sin, suffering no impurity to dim the 
brightness of God's image enshrined within ; 
standing apart from the broad highway while 
the rush and roar of common Hfe with its 
passing sorrows and fleeting joys, with its 
sordid aims and cruel jealousies, swept on 
and ever on, leaving behind no trace of 
having passed by, save dust and ashes — dust 
unlaid by forgotten tears, ashes uncheered by 
songs of which no echo lingered ; by smiles 
and hopes that had left no memory of sun- 
shine, but were themselves dust and ashes 
too. 

It was a foolish fancy; but the house was 
one where, if one stood still for a moment, 
through the silence unbidden fancies came 
thick as motes dancing in the summer air. 

For a minute or two longer than usual 
Frank stood thus, dreaming of the lives 
that had been lived in the old house, of the 
might-have-been of his own life, of the might- 
be he longed for, of the might-be that more 
possibly was to come. Then he turned to 
go. 

The entrance into Botolph Lane had long 
been closed, so he was obliged to cross the 



''I LOVE you:' 93 



hall in order to reach the door giving on 
Love Lane. The marble sounded hollow 
under his feet, and the whole house seemed 
full of muffled echoes. After all, it was an 
eerie place. Yet Abigail loved it — Abigail, 
who had grown up in it without fear; Abigail, 
who spent so much of her young life there 
alone, almost absolutely alone. 

And how bright she was, how cheerful, 
how pleasant to talk to, how good to look 
at ! Abigail, so clever, so useful, so true, so 
honest, so capable ! — not in his eyes alone 
(he was a lover, and so, with such a sun 
shining into them, might not see quite 
clearly), but in the eyes of other people, who 
had one and all known her since she came 
amongst them. 

" Frank !" 

He was so wrapped up in his own imagin- 
ings that he quite started at the word. 

He looked around, but could see no one. 

" Who called me ?" he asked. 

" I — Abigail. Come here; I want to speak 
to you." 

She had his hand in hers by this time, and 
was leading him along the unlighted passage 



94 MITRE COURT. 



to the sitting-room, where, on one Whitsun 
Tuesday, she sat bHthe, saucy, pretty, sparr- 
ing with the Consul, then just appointed, for 
New Andalusia. 

"And to think, my darling, that I did not 
recognise your voice, that it seemed strange 
to me !" he was saying as they entered ; then, 
when he saw her face, he asked, "What is the 
matter, Abigail — what has happened ?" 

" Not much," she answered, "but enough. 
Won't you sit down ?" 

" You are ill, dearest," he said. There was 
a drawn look about her face, a brilliant colour 
in her cheeks, a brightness in her eyes he 
was alarmed to see. 

"I am not ill," she replied determinedly ; 
" but I have something to tell you, some- 
thing to say to you." 

" Yes." He grasped the back of a chair, 
and stood looking at her over it. What was 
— what could she be going to say ? 

" You must hear my story from me," Abi- 
gail went on, "before you hear it from any- 
one else. Do you remember, long ago, 
my wishing to tell it, and you would not 
let me ? Oh !" she added passionately, '* I 



''I LOVE you:' 95 



wish you had allowed me to have my way 
then !" 

" Why more than now ?" he asked. 

" Because" — she did not seem abashed, but 
spoke as some one on a deathbed might — " I 
did not love you so much then. I think it 
would have been easier to part." 

" We will never part," he said. 

"This morning, Mrs. Jeffley asked rrie if it 
was true — she had heard the story from Mrs. 
Childs. How she heard it, I do not know ; 
and I was so young, Frank, and I had been 
taught no good thing except by my father^ 
and after his death, hungry and cold and 
miserable, I had to shift for my wretched 
little self. Forgive me, dear, forgive me for 
ever having thought I could be a fit wife to 
you." 

" For God's sake !" said the man she ad- 
dressed, " do not torture me any longer. 
Whatever you may have done, you are — 
you must always be — the one woman in the 
world to me. But tell me the trouble, and 
let us bear the burden together, or rather, let 
let me bear it all for you." 

He stretched out his hand as he spoke, to 



MITRE COURT. 



take hers, but she put it gently aside. To 
her lover she was most gentle, as likewise to 
children and old people. Happy and pros- 
perous, she might some day be a charming 
woman — sympathetic, piquante, comprehend- 
ing ; but what chance had she of ever being 
either } 

With gathered years she was losing the 
kittenish light-heartedness of early youth, and 
who could tell but that when it departed 
some of her charm would vanish too ? Most 
probably sorrow, and that battle with the 
world which is good for but few women, and 
softens the manners of none, would develop 
all the hardness which in both sexes lies so 
close to strength ; but as she rejected Frank's 
caress, nothing sweeter or tenderer than her 
gesture could be imagined. Poor Abigail ! 
quite unconsciously she was making it more 
difficult than ever for man born of woman to 
leave and forget her. 

" You cannot bear it for me," she said ; 
" you can have nothing in common with a 
thief" 

" A thief!" he repeated blankly. 

" Yes." Her tone was firm enough now. 



I LOVE YOU." 97 



"Just such a little thief as stands any day 
with his head hardly reaching to the top of 
the dock, and who never sees the sun again 
but with the taint of the prison upon him — 
that is what I was, I wonder — oh ! I won- 
der," she added passionately, "how I ever 
could have been happy after. Yet I was — 
I was. I did not mind — I forgot, I suppose, 
or I did not think it signified — till I came to 
care for you." 

" So long as you care for me, my dar- 
ling " he was beginning, when she 

stopped him. 

" You do not understand," said Abigail. 
" I was a thief in intention as well as in fact. 
It is true ; but for Mr. Brisco I should have 
been a thief all my life." 

" He did you one good turn, at all events," 
remarked the young man, trying to speak 
lightly. 

" One r she answered ; " one ! ! What do 
I not owe to him ! Though I never — never 
can blot out the days of my shameful child- 
hood, still " 

"It was agreed that those days were never 
again to be mentioned between us," he inter- 

voL. III. 47 



98 MITRE COURT. 



posed. " My dearest ! why will you grieve 
yourself and pain me by speaking of that 
past, dead and buried so long ago ?" 

" I hoped it was — I thought it was !" she 
cried ; "but oh, how foolish to suppose any- 
thing we have done ever can be buried ! 
Even in this world," she went on wildly, 
" there is a resurrection ; our sins rise again, 
not like ghosts, but alive, more alive than 
when first committed." 

Her forced calmness was breaking down ; 
a little more, and she would lose all self- 
control. 

"Tell me what you mean," Frank said, as 
coolly as he could, "If we must part — 
though I can at present conceive of no 
reason which should part two who are so 
thoroughly one — at least, let me know the 
reason. You are a thief, you say," with a 
forced laugh, " What did you steal — the 
crown jewels ?" 

" If I had, it might not have seemed so 
dreadful ; mine was a poor mean theft— 
everything about me is poor and mean, I 
think. It was in the dusk of an evening in 
late spring, after I came here first. Ah ! how 



''1 LOVE YOUP 99 



I recall it 1 I met a starved-looking woman 
carrying a basket with a few primroses she 
had failed to sell, and I could not help 
lookinof at her — she was thinner even than I." 

" My poor little love !" 

" Mrs. Childs had told me to eet two 
ounces of beef," she went on with a plaintive 
smile at the pettiness of the errand which 
had been fraught with such results, " from 
that large shop in Crutched Friars. It was 
not often we could afford to buy anything of 
the sort, but we sometimes dealt there for 
more humble fare." 

Frank clenched his hand tightly under the 
table, " And they knew me — they had come 
to know me because Mrs. Childs never went 
on an errand herself if she could avoid 
doing so." 

" Dear, get it over," entreated her lover, as 
though she had still been a child dallying 
with a nauseous dose of medicine, 

" There were a great many people waiting 
to be served, and I was so small and so 
poorly dressed that no one gave way for me 
to get to the counter, even in my turn. It 
was for that reason I pushed at last up to the 

47—2 



MITRE COURT. 



top of the shop, where on a cross counter 
there were some parcels placed ready for the 
boy to take out. I remember what passed 
through my mind, that all these things were 
for somebody else, while we had nothing — 
they were not even in a hurry to serve me. 
I thought it was very hard. Mr. Brisco had 
sheltered me, and he was forced to be content 
with a thin slice of meat as a treat. If I 
could only take a saveloy— perhaps he liked 
saveloys. Does it not sound absurd ?" 
And Abigail burst into hysterical weeping. 

" Stop !" said the young man. " I want 
to hear no more — I will hear no more !" 

She put up her hand to hush his impatience. 
" To cut it all short," she said, " I took what 
lay nearest to me, and slipped out behind the 
backs of the customers with three parcels. I 
was glad when I got into the street with 
them," she went on, " I had no fear then, 
no remorse ; instead, I felt jubilant. After a 
time I remembered I was without the beef, 
so I went to another shop and got it. After 
that I went home. 

" I let Mrs. Childs lay the cloth, place my 
purchase on a plate, leave the kettle, and go 



'' I LOVE Your 



home. Then my turn came. I pulled open 
the papers and found a pork pie, some brawn 
and sausages. \ got a pan and cooked the 
sausages, I made the tea, and called Mr. 
Brisco." 

" ' Where did these things come from ?' 
he asked^ and his tone seemed so terrible to 
me that I shivered. 

"He looked about the table and asked 
again, ' Child, do you know how these things 
came here ?' 

" ' I brought them in,' I said. 

" ' Who gave them to you ?' 

" I was so frightened I could not answer. 

"'Abigail,' he tried again. 'Where did 
you get these things ?' 

" I tried to speak. 

" ' Stop a minute,' he said ; ' take time, tell 
me what you like, only do not tell me a lie. 
I never forg;ive a lie. It is to me the un- 
pardonable sin.' " 

" God pardon hiiu^' murmured the young 
man. 

" I got it out somehow, trembling with 
fear. I had been so used to blows, I cringed, 
expecting one ; but he only looked at me, 



MITRE COURT. 



and said, ' So you're a thief.' He sat still for 
a minute, and then told me to put on my hat. 

"That unloosed my tongue. If I had 
never spoken to him freely before, I spoke 
then. He could not get in a word — sobbing 
and crying, I prayed him not to send me 
away. I promised impossibilities. ' Only let 
me stay,' I entreated, ' Only — only — do not 
turn me out.' 

" ' I do not intend to turn you out this 
time,' he answered. ' I will give you another 
chance. Dry your eyes, and put on your 
hat.' 

" I put on my hat, but I could not cease 
crying. We went along the street side by 
side, the people looking at us as we passed. 
He took me straight to the shop and asked 
to see the master. We w^ere shown into a 
little back room, and then Mr. Brisco told the 
man what I had done. ' Of course you 
could send the child to prison,' he said ; ' but 
I hope you will not do that. I will pay you 
for what she took, and promise for her that 
she will never be so wicked ao^ain.' 

" I can't tell you, Frank, what I felt. If 
he had beaten me black and blue, I should 



''I LOVE Your 103 



not have suffered half so much as I did In 
hearing my sin told out loud. 

"The man thanked Mr. Brisco for being 
so honourable, and took the money, which 
seemed to me an enormous sum. 

" For days those things were always set 
out on the table, and then Mr. Brisco would 
say, ' They are paid for, so you may have a 
piece if you choose.' But I couldn't eat 
them, they would have choked me ; my bit 
of dry bread seemed sweet by comparison. 
So at last they went bad, and had to be thrown 
out. We had no butter or tea till the money 
was made up again. Mr. Brisco fared as 
poorly as I. It was then I began to try to be 
of some help in the house. Mrs. Childs was 
ill, and Sophia would perhaps do one room 
and leave all the rest. I was useful and 
saved expense, and after a time I thought 
little about my theft, though Mr. Brisco mado 
me go to the shop for whatever we wanted. 

"It was not till I knew you that the full 
shame and disgrace of what I had done began 
to haunt me. I told you everything but that ; 
and I tried, you know, and you would not 
hear me. And then I thought perhaps it did 



I04 • MITRE COURT. 

not matter so much, as nobody knew except 
the shopkeeper and Mr. Brisco, and they 
seemed to have forgotten. This morning, 
when Mrs. Jeffley spoke to me, I felt dis- 
tracted. I was impudent, I think, to her ; 
but walking along the street it seemed to me 
that I was branded, that ' thief must be 
written on my forehead ;" and then Abigail 
broke down fairly, and covering her face with 
her hand, wept softly. 

In an instant Frank ceased pacing the 
room and was beside her. " Abigail," he 
said — "Abigail, my own, look at me: well, 
then listen to me. If you had committed all 
the sins in the Decalogue, you would be 
Abigail to me. Why will you harass yourself 
about this matter ? What can it signify, poor 
child — poor little mite ? Why, dear, I love 
you, if that be possible, a thousand times 
better than I did before ! Part — we will 
never part ! I will take all your troubles on 
me — I have now taken my resolution. 
Whenever Mr. Brisco returns, I will speak 
to him ; and if he refuses you to me, as I 
think he will, we must marry without his 
consent." 



I LOVE YOU." los 



" No, no — never !" she sobbed. 

"Yes, yes, yes!" he persisted. "I have 
waited too long already. My darling, talk to 
me ; forgive me for having kept you in a 
false position, for ever inducing you to hold 
any secret from Mr. Brisco. He does not 
deserve such love as yours ; but that cannot 
make my conduct right. If we have to be 
poor, we shall be poor together." He knelt 
down beside her, and passing one arm round 
her waist, tried with the other hand to raise 
her head ; but she kept it obstinately bent. 

" No," she said, " I will never marry you — 
never bring shame upon you." 

" I am certain you will not do that," he 
answered ; and so by degrees — chiding, up- 
braiding her for distrust, laughing at her idea 
that he would ever give her up, reproaching 
himself for having been but a tardy lover, not 
worthy of winning such a wife — he managed 
to lay her tear-stained face on his breast, 
"where I will give you leave to weep out 
your trouble," he said tenderly, and so 
babbled on as foolish lovers do. 

It is a foolish, foolish lay they sing, but 
sweet. In all the world's grand harmonies. 



io6 MITRE COURT. 



there is nothing so musical as that simple 
song, of which, spite of its endless repeti- 
tions, its constant monotony, men and women 
never tire. To lovers now it is still fresh as 
when first its tones rose and fell among the 
flowers of Eden, and it will be fresh still to 
generations yet unborn — when tongues that 
speak and ears that hear to-day, are dumb 
and deaf in death. 

And to Frank and Abigail it seemed so 
beautiful that the old house which kept silence 
to listen was transformed, while the music 
lasted, to a fairy palace ; and they forgot the 
hardness of their own lives and the burdens 
they had to bear, forgot everything save their 
own supreme happiness, and the entrancing 
beauty of that strange melody. 

" I love you ! — ^I love you ! — I love you !" 
That was the beginning and end, the burden, 
the refrain, the solo, and the chorus. " I 
love you !" Simple words, yet containing all 
that makes life worth living, the whole wisdom 
and folly of existence. 

" I love you, Abigail !" he repeated for the 
hundredth time ; and with eyes still soft and 
wet with tears she answered, " I love you !" 



"/ LOVE Your 107 



The girl had riot quite closed the door 
when she led Frank into her room, and with 
the sound of the music made by themselves 
thrilling their ears and satisfying their hearts, 
they remained unconscious that any auditor 
was present till they were startled by a voice 
which said : 

" So this is the sort of thing that goes on 
when I am from home !" 

" Yes, sir." 

It was Frank who answered — calmly, 
though a clap of thunder would not have 
surprised him so much. 

Abigail's lips formed the word " No," but 
she could not utter a sound. 

" You are a disreputable scoundrel !" 

" That I am not," replied Frank. 

" No man but a scoundrel would have 
taken advantage of such an opportunity to 
tempt a girl to compromise herself." 

" Abigail will never be compromised 
by me." 

" I shall take care that she is not. Leave 
my house this instant, and never set foot in it 
again. To-morrow I mean to lay the whole 
case before your employers." 



io8 MITRE COURT. 



" You must do exactly as you please about 
that." 

"You are insolent." 

" I do not mean to be so. I only want 
you to hear what I have to say." 

" I will hear nothing, sir. I have seen too 
much." 

** You have seen precisely what I meant 
you to know whenever you returned home. 
This is the first time I have spoken one word 
of love to Abigail under your roof, and 
having spoken it, I determined at once to ask 
you for her. We want to marry — there is 
nothinof dishonourable in that." 

"Marry!" repeated Mr. Brisco scornfully. 

"Yes. I love Abigail, and she loves me. 
What better can we do than marry ?" 

" Separate." 

" Oh no ! we are not going to separate. 
We have known each other too long, and 
love each other too well to part." 

" You have known each other an immense 
period, no doubt — since last Christmas — quite 
a lifetime ; but, long or short, there must 
now be an end of it. Leave my house, and 
do not compel me to use force." 



'' I LOVE Your 109 



" I will not leave your house till you answer 
my question. I want to marry Abigail. Will 
you give your consent ? We are not strangers 
to one another. I have always meant to 
marry her, and I mean to marry her now. I 
am not rich, but I have enough to keep her. 
You may trust her to me. I will make her a 
good and faithful husband — God helping me." 

" You will not make her a husband of any 
sort, good, bad, or indifferent." 

" But why do you object ?" 

"Why.^ If for no other reason, for the 
underhand manner in which you have tried 
to engage a girl's affections. There is nothing 
fair and honest about you, sir — because 
your master has an office here, you, his 
servant, availed yourself of the facilities 
offered to entangle this young woman into an 
engagement. You seize the occasion of my 
absence to sneak into my house without 
thinking or caring for the damage you may 
do to her reputation " 

" It was not his fault — I asked him," 
faltered Abigail. 

" That only makes matters worse. There 
was a time when you would not have been 



MITRE COURT. 



SO treacherous, not so risked your good name. 
As for you, sir, I decline to continue the 
argument further. May I beg you to reheve 
me of your presence ?" 

" I cannot leave the matter in this state ; 
whatever you may think, it is a serious one 
to me. It involves the happiness of my life. 
I tell you fairly, I am not going to give up 
Abigail, I would rather marry her with 
your consent — but I will marry her without, 
if you refuse it." 

"And how dare you, a stranger, talk 
of marrying the girl without my consent ? 
She has known you at most but a few 
months •" 

" She has known me for years," interrupted 
Frank. 

" Every sentence you utter makes your 
conduct worse. You have taught her de- 
ception, aided and abetted her in acting a lie. 
You would steal her away from one who has 
stood her friend — out of a house where, till 
she saw you, she was at least safe. Who are 
you, sir ?" went on the old man, lashing him- 
self up into a fury — " who are you that you 
should ask me for a girl immeasurably your 



''I LOVE Your 



superior, and propose to marry her on the 
wretched pittance you are not certain to 
receive for more than a week at any time ?" 

" As for that," retorted Frank, " my pittance 
cannot be much less than you have expected 
her to h've on here, and for the rest, who am 
I ? — I think you put it in that way." 

"Yes, I did." 

" / ant your son /" 

Mr. Brisco paused for one second before 
he said, " It is false !" 

"It is true. I had not intended to tell you, 
now, or in this way ; but it is true." 

" Frank Scott is not my son ;" and Mr. 
Brisco laughed scornfully. 

"Ralph Francis Brisco is — and I am he!" 

There was a pause, during which his father 
looked at him fixedly ; then he tottered to a 
seat in silence. " Are you indeed my son," 
he said at last, " my son who left me so long 
ago : 

Frank, moved by some subtle impulse, 
without answering in words, stretched out his 
hand, which the old man clasped. 

They were alone. Abigail had slipped 
away out of the room, up the staircase 



MITRE COURT. 



through the darkness, to her own narrow 
chamber. The woman had finished all clean- 
ing and departed ; in the old house there 
reigned a stillness like unto death. And so 
the night crept on apace, and Abigail, sitting 
beside her bed, watched and listened, and 
thought of the vigils she had kept under the 
starlifjht — under the moonlio:ht — in the winter 
blackness — watching the summer dawn. 





CHAPTER V. 



FRANK S CONFESSION. 




O days Abigail could remember had 
ever passed so heavily in the old 
house as the fifteen which followed 
after that night. Just at first, in the presence 
of his son, Mr. Brisco expanded, as a plant 
after languishing in the chilly March winds 
will revive under the watery gleams of April 
sunshine ; but it was the revival preceding 
decay. 

The old root could put forth no fresh green 
suckers. The damp and the cold of a starved 
youth and struggling manhood had well-nigh 
killed all life worth having. He said to him- 
self, " After a night of sorrow, joy has come 
to me with the morning — I will enjoy !" But 
lo ! the power of enjoyment was gone. 

VOL. III. 48 



114 MITRE COURT. 



Whatever bitterness there might have been 
in Frank's heart towards his father — and at 
one time it was full of bitterness — died away 
as he came to understand no real happiness 
could ever now be his. 

He had placed himself out of sympathy 
with his kind, and it was impossible again to 
rivet the link rudely snapped so many a year 
agone. He seemed to desire his son's com- 
pany always, never to be easy when Frank 
was out of his sight, yet he had little to 
say to him when they were together. The 
chain of silence himself had forged, bound 
him with iron fetters. 

Even had he wished to talk, which is 
problematical, he lacked the power. He had 
for years lived so entirely with himself, to 
himself, that all the delicate feelers most men 
put out towards their fellows were withered. 
He had lost touch with humanity. He had 
grown to care for nothing, think of nothing, 
but himself, and the one purpose on which 
his heart was set. 

He asked no details of the events which 
had filled his son's life since they parted. 
Ralph had returned, and he cared for nothing 



FRANK'S CONFESSION. 115 



further. The hunger a parent usually feels 
to learn all a child has seen, suffered, enjoyed, 
felt, striven for, gained, lost during absence, 
was unknown to him. For father and son the 
past held no common memory save that of 
pain. The present was now to Mr. Brisco 
no more than the present had been for years 
— a means to an end, a step in a journey. 

Association with him was weary work. 
Nothing but the conviction that his father 
could not be regarded as sane, that the 
monomania of his life had affected his reason, 
could have induced Frank to bear the burden 
which was put upon him as uncomplainingly 
even as he did. 

" I meant to do great things when I came 
back to England," he said to Abigail. " In 
imagination I planted good seed enough to 
ensure a splendid crop ; but first one green 
shoot and then another has been damped off, 
and there is nothing left for me to do but 
keep my temper with a most trying and 
wrong-headed old man. When I landed I 
was full of repentance, full of forgiveness, 
anxious to make amends ; and the end of it 
all is I find my father does not care for my 

48—2 



ii6 MITRE COURT. 



repentance, or want my forgiveness, and only 
desires that I should help him to carry out 
some crazy scheme which can never do good 
to anyone." 

Abigail did not answer for a moment. In 
her lover's new-found content that their en- 
gagement need no longer remain a secret he 
had failed to notice the grreat chano-e that had 
taken place in her. 

"What is the scheme?" she asked at 
length. 

" So far as I can make out, to revive in 
our own persons the glories that once hung 
around the Briscos and Granthams." 

*' Oh !" said Abicrail. 

" Why should we trouble ourselves about a 
family-tree which has long cut off our branch ?" 
went on Frank, " if we really ever were part 
of it. I do not like to tell my father so, but 
I certainly have no intention of devoting my 
life to CTraftincr it on arain." 

" Why did you not let your father know, 
years ago, that you were living ?" asked the 
girl, making no comment on this state- 
ment. 

Frank took a few turns up and down the 



FJ^A.VK'S CONFESSION. 117 

room. " I always knew," he said, stopping 
suddenly, " that it would be hard to tell you 
about my past life." 

" Don't tell me about your past life, then." 
The voice was the voice of Abigail, but the 
tone one to which he had till lately been 
unaccustomed. 

" I must speak of it, if you are to under- 
stand why I kept silence so long, x^nd at all 
events, I should have to make my confession 
before we marry." 

Good or bad, Abigail uttered no word. 
She did not blush, she did not smile. She 
only went on with that eternal seam, into 
which she always appeared to be sewing a 
portion of her own existence. 

"When I left home/' Frank began — "as 
you now know I did leave home — I went 
straight to a certain Uncle Jack, of whom 
my old nurse had always spoken as but a 
little lower than the angels. He was going 
abroad the next day, and he took me with 
him, out of spite I am sure to my father, 
whom he hated. I had never liked my 
father, and I grew to hate him too. I 
looked upon him almost as my mother's 



Ii8 M/TRE- COURT. 



murderer ; my nurse always represented him 
as such " 

" Was your mother's name ' Faith' ?" asked 
Abigail. 

"Yes." 

" I see — go on." 

" With my uncle I led what I thought at 
first a delightful life. He left me at liberty 
to do what I pleased. I had money always 
in my pocket. We went from place to place 
— he seemed to have friends in all towns, 
and his friends were good to me. After the 
strict discipline, the stinted food, the utter 
absence of amusement or even cheerfulness 
in my early home, you may judge how 
pleasant an existence of this sort seemed. I 
learned no lessons ; I knew no restraint, and 
I grew up " 

Abigail raised her eyes and looked at 
him. 

" I cannot tell exactly when or how it was 
that I becjan to doubt whether the life we 
were leading was all it should be. I re- 
member one day at Baden, a kindly looking 
grey-haired gentleman, when leaving the 
Conversatioiishaus, happened to draw a letter 



FRANK'S CONFESSION. 119 



out with his handkerchief. He did not 
notice that it fell to the ground, but I did, 
and ran after him with it. He seemed 
pleased, and talked to me for a little, walking 
by my side. 

" As we passed through the gates we met 
my uncle In company with a friend of his. 
He stopped, and would have spoken, but the 
gentleman only bowed stiffly and walked on, 
saying to me, ' Good-bye, my lad,' in a tone 
I could not then understand. 

" ' Old fool !' cried my uncle, looking after 
him. I could not tell you why that little 
scene impressed me so much. I never think 
of the roses and syringas of Baden, or in 
memory hear again the babble of its clear 
stream, but I seem to see the sadness in that 
old gentleman's eyes as he turned away. I 
wondered then why he would not stop to 
speak to my uncle, and why my uncle called 
him 'old fool.' I know now. 

"We went from Baden to Homburg, and 
it was there we met a man who changed my 
life. He was a great favourite with my 
uncle and some other persons who were 
staying at the hotel. They always spoke of 



MITRE COURT. 



him as Charley. I had heard about him 
long before I saw him." 

Frank stopped for a moment, then went 
on : " He was about the middle height, slight, 
languid, womanly looking, not much above 
thirty, with a saint-like expression, and the 
softest voice I ever heard." 

Again Frank stopped. 

" Appearances are deceitful. When I came 
to know more of him, I knew they did not 
lie who said he was the greatest drunkard, 
gambler, profligate in Europe. 

" There was not much orood in him. It 
was at his instigation I threw my first stake 
on a craminof-table; vet he nursed me throuo-h 
an attack of pleurisy, and remonstrated with 
my uncle about the way he was bringing me 
up. ' Poor litde beggar, send him to school,' 
he said. 

"'We'll do better than that,' cried my 
uncle, ' we'll make a man of him — won't we, 
Frank ?' and then they all laughed, and like 
a simpleton, I said ' Yes,' and laughed too. 

"My new friend took me in hand, how- 
ever, and by fits and starts taught me pretty 
nearlv all I know ; sometimes talked to me 



FRANK'S CONFESSION. 121 



about better things than dice and drink — 
made me think as I had never thought in 
my Hfe before ; and then we parted. 

" I do not hke to recall the time that 
elapsed before we met again. I was young 
in years, but I grew to be a man long before 
my time. I got to know my uncle to be 
devoid of honour, or even common honesty. 
He had runs of good luck, and then we 
feasted. He had runs of ill luck, and then, 
if he could not wheedle an innkeeper or 
swindle some one, we pretty nearly starved. 
I gambled on my own account, and, as fortune 
generally favours the young, was often success- 
ful. Then my money was taken from me, and 
after he had spent it, my uncle would sit and 
lament that he ever saw me, reproach me be- 
cause I was my father's son, and speak of him 
in the vilest terms. At times like these I 
marvelled whether my father might not have 
been right in his estimate of his wife's family 
— nay, as I grew older I bethought me she 
might not have been exactly the wife for 
him." 

Frank paused. Abigail's work had dropped 
into her lap, but she did not look up or speak. 



122 MITRE COURT. 



The story was not what she had expected. 
Evidently it did not please her. 

" We were rather in a ' tight place,' " went 
on the young man, " when we came across 
Scott — that was Charley's surname — again. 
He seemed to bring back luck with him. 
Once more gold chinked, and champagne 
foamed, and landlords were obsequious, and 
we seemed to have got the wind on our 
backs at last. This continued for some time. 
I used to go to the Kiirsaal as regularly as 
my elders. I was as confirmed a gambler as 
though I had been fifty. My uncle went 
away for a while suddenly, but that made no 
difference to me. I stopped on at the hotel 
with the rest, and lived, in all respects, very 
much as they did. You see I don't spare 
myself, Abigail ; I told you I had been a 
' bad boy.' " 

" I remember," said she. Yes, she remem- 
bered well. 

" One night luck went against me ; I lost 
every sixpence I had gained, every sixpence 
I possessed. The same thing had happened 
to me before, and I did not fret much about 
it. Scott, on the contrary, rose a winner. 



FRANK'S CONFESSION. 



I don't know how much he carried away, but 
something considerable. Letters awaited 
him at the hotel. He read them, and went 
to his room. I did not see him again till the 
next day. When we met it was late in the 
afternoon, and he was strolling through the 
gardens attached to the inn. ' Hi, Frank ! I 
want to speak to you,' he cried. 

" I went up to him, and he laid his hand 
on my shoulder. 

"'You are eoinof straight to the Devil, 
my lad,' he said. I thought at first he had 
been drinking, but he was quite sober, and 
very pale. ' I have made up my mind to 
save you, if you will be saved,' he proceeded. 
' This is a letter to an old fellow who would 
like to serve me. I did him a good turn 
once — one of the few I ever did. I have 
told him you are a relation of mine, that your 
name is Francis Scott ; that you have fallen 
among bad companions, and into evil courses, 
but that you want to reform. He will put 
you in the way of earning your bread 
honestly. Here is money enough to take 
you to him ; now pack up your things 
and Qr-Q.' 



124 MITRE COURT. 



" ' Why should I go ?' I asked. 

" ' I have told 370U ; because, if you are to 
escape the Devil, you must flee from him.' 

" I fell a-trembling ; there was something 
in his manner more than in his words I could 
not understand. 

" * But my uncle ?' I managed to get out. 

"'You will never see him again/ he said. 
' He has at last done that which will give 
him a home for life quite free from anxiety 
as to ways and means. You are well out of 
that connection — cut it — forget us all ; there 
is not much to choose among the lot. Good- 
bye ; if we ever meet, I shall have cast my 
skin, and become clean as a new-born babe. 
Till then, farewell. God be with you !' " 

Once more Frank paused. 

'* Have you ever met again ?" she asked. 
It was a woman's question, and a natural 
one, but she did not receive a direct 
answer. Instead, the young man resumed 
his narrative. 

" I went upstairs, and packed my few 
possessions. i\ vagabond life such as we 
had led does not tend to the purchase of 
useless trifles, and I owned as small a ward- 



FRANK'S CONFESSION. 125 

robe as it is possible to imagine. When I 
finished there were still a couple of hours to 
get through before the diligence left. The 
thought of the Kursaal came into my mind. 
We had always killed time there, always 
looked upon it as our home. I knew well 
enough Scott had not meant me to go there 
again, but what harm could there be in look- 
ing on, or even trying my own chance once 
more ? I again counted the money he had 
o'iven me. There was more than I should 
require for my journey, and " 

"You went to the Kursaal?' interrupted 
Abigail. It would be hard to say whether 
her tone was most full of contempt or pity. 
She was young — had she been older, pity 
might have predominated. 

"I went," said Frank. "You see I am 
not glossing over my sin. My God ! with 
such an end to my story, how could I ?" 

" You lost, I suppose, what Mr. Scott gave 
you ?" suggested Abigail, in a judicial manner. 

Again the young man refused her informa- 
tion, and proceeded with his narrative in his 
own fashion. 

"When I got to the Ktirsaal, Scott was 



126 MITRE COURT. 



already there, so absorbed in his game that 
at first he did not see me. I did not stake 
much at a time, but I continued staking till I 
had lost all I took into the accursed place. I 
had reserved money for my fare, except for 
that I was penniless ! I walked out of the 
Kursaal too heavy at heart to hurl an impre- 
cation at it, and strolled on some few steps 
with my hands in empty pockets. I had not 
gone far before some one touched my arm. 
It was Scott. 

" ' So you could not refrain, my boy,' he 
said with a ghastly smile, which will haunt 
me to my dying day. 'How do you feel 
now ?' 

" I could not answer. I felt such an agony 
of shame that speech was denied me to ex- 
press it. 

" ' Have you lost all ?' he asked. 

" I told him it was not quite so bad as 
that. 

" ' Thank Heaven !' he cried, ' you may be 
saved yet;' and then, like a person tired out, 
he sank on a bench — one of the many which 
lined the path. 

" ' I have no more money to give you,' he 



F/? A NX'S CONFESSION. 127 

said. * I have been cleaned out ; but you 
will leave here to-night, won't you ?' 

" I assured him I would. 

" ' Go on to the hotel,' was his last sentence ; 
' don't wait for me. I will sit here awhile. 
Good-bye— let this evening be a lesson to 
you.' 

" He wrung my hand. I don't know what 
I said, but I know there were tears in my 
eyes when we parted. 

" With a heavy heart I walked on — head 
bent down, heart full, as you may guess. He 
had been the one man I ever met who at- 
tracted and fascinated me, and I was going 
away in disgrace — condemned by my own 
act. It was a calm evening, calm and still — 
an evening when all nature seemed at peace. 
It was so still, one could hear a leaf dropping. 
Suddenly a pistol-shot rent the air. I did 
not know where the sound came from. I did 
not know why I looked round. People were 
running — but I ran fleeter than all. With- 
out knowledge I seemed to grasp what had 
happened. On the bench as I had left him, 
with his saint-like face turned up to heaven, 
where God grant he found mercy, Charley 



128 MITRE COURT. 



Scott lay back dead. The battle had gone 
against him, as such battles always do, and — — " 

" Do not go on," said Abigail, and for a 
few minutes there ensued utter silence. 

When Frank broke it, he took up the story 
of his life later on, 

" I meant," he said, " to stop with the 
friend I had found till I made enough money 
to be able to say to my father, ' I want 
nothing from you' — but he died before I could 
put by much ; and as it did not seem that in 
Germany I was likely greatly to improve my 
position, I resolved to come to London. I 
was poor enough then, and I did not feel in- 
clined to present myself a pauper to a parent 
who had always prophesied I would come to 
no good. I heard he was badly off, and I 
sent him a few pounds I could ill spare, 
anonymously, giving him an address to which 
he could acknowledge that he had received 
the money safely. When I called to see if 
there were a letter, and found one waiting, I 
could not tell you what I felt. I opened it, 
and what do you suppose I found ?" 

" The money returned, no doubt." 

" 'With G. Brisco's compliments, and begs 



FRANK'S CONFESSION. 



to inform his officious correspondent that 
he is not a beggar.' He could not know, of 
course, who had sent the order, but somehow 
it affected me like a slap in the face." 

" But Frank, you can't blame him. I 
should not care to take money if I did not 
know where it came from, and perhaps not 
then." 

" But you would refuse it civilly ?'' 

" I might," said Abigail, but she said it 
doubtfully. 

'' At all events, that experience held me 
back. The whole thing was so like my 
father. Time and absence had somewhat 
softened my feeling towards him, and it was 
a shock to me to find time had not altered 
his character. Then I got acquainted with 
you. I tried to do so that I might learn 
more of him, and then — and then — you know 
the rest." 

" No — I do not," said Abigail. '* I cannot 
imagine why you refused to tell your father 
that you cared for me." 

" Because I felt sure it would be worse 
than useless to tell him. I knew you were 
necessary to him, I knew his poverty was 

VOL. III. 49 



I30 MITRE COURT. 



all a sham. From the time I learned the 
amount of rent he paid for this house and the 
money he must be clearing out of it, I felt 
pretty certain he was saving, and T thought 
it not improbable he might be saving for 
you. 

" You must now be tolerably well satisfied 
that you were mistaken," said the girl drily. 

" No ; recent events do not prove that my 
former conjecture was wrong." 

" And what is your present idea ?" asked 
Abigail, laying her hand on the table, and 
looking up at Frank as she asked the ques- 
tion. 

" I think I am not going to trouble myself 
much in forming any more conjectures on the 
subject. What I mean to do, is marry you 
as soon as possible ; with my father's consent 
if he will give it, without it should he refuse." 

'' No," she declared, " no ; I am very poor, 

but " What she might have been going 

to add was interrupted by a tap at the door. 

"Any admittance?" asked Mr. Katzen, 
coming in with outstretched hand and smil- 
ing face. " Strictly on business ; ashamed to 
interrupt so pleasant a tete-a-tetc, but Mr. 



FRANK'S CONFESSION. 



Brisco desires the presence of a certain young 
gentleman. I am so glad to make your ac- 
quaintance in a new character ; I always felt 
you did not fit the old." 

"Thank you," said Frank coldly; then turn- 
ing to Abigail, added, " I shall see you 
again." 

" Oh ! yes, you will see her again," ex- 
claimed Mr. Katzen, laughing, " Don't look 
so savage, dear boy; it is I, not you, who 
have the right to frown, yet I refrain from 
asserting it," 

"If everyone prospered as you do, Mr. 
Katzen," remarked Frank, "there ought not 
to be much frowning in the world." 

" And yet even I have my little cross. 
There she sits as demure as though she had 
never broken a heart — never split mine right 
in two. Ah ! Abigail, cruel Abigail ! But 
my friend Mr, Brisco waits, and I shrewdly 
suspect if you do not go to him, he will come 
to you," 

"It is very probable," said Frank, and he 
sat down. 

"If you are whistling for a storm, I think 
you will have one," observed Mr. Katzen. 

49—2 



132 MITRE COURT. 

"As your father has sent for you " 

began Abigail. 

'* Beheve me, you would do wisely to attend 
to his summons," added the Consul. 

Reluctantly Frank rose and left the room. 
Mr. Katzen followed him with his eyes, 

''It is a whole fortnight that I have not 
seen you," he said to the girl, when they were 
alone ; "and so far as I can judge, much has 
happened in the time." 

" But little has happened here," returned 
Abigail. 

" The return of the prodigal — do you call 
that little ?" 

" The prodigal returned long ago." 

" But ' incognito,' my dear. Unknown, 
a prodigal might just as well stay away." 

" So he might," agreed Miss Weir. 

" I long to hear all particulars. Did the 
father fall on his neck and weep T 

" No." 

"At least he killed the fatted calf?" 

" No." 

" Perhaps it was best ; for so small a house- 
hold a whole calf would have left too much 
cold veal." 



FRANK'S confession: 133 

** Far too much." 

" That is right, sweet Abigail, laugh — it is 
long since I have seen you laugh. Great 
happiness has made you grave. Well, and 
when the repentant sinner revealed himself, 
were you very merry ?" 

" Certainly not merry." 

" Sad, no doubt. We know you English 
do take your pleasure so. How pleased you 
must all have felt ! Your gain, of course, is 
my loss ; but there, no one can gain unless 
some one loses — 'tis strange, but true. And 
in the son you can see the father's face, 
though I really think he is not so good- 
looking as his dad. In an austere sort of 
way, Mr. Brisco, when young, must have 
been almost handsome. As yet, Frank the 
beloved is not handsome, but every eye 
makes its own beauty, and I doubt not our 
prodigal seems beautiful to you." 

" Naturally," agreed Abigail. 

"And though in feature he does not re- 
semble his good papa, he is a facsimile of him 
in mind. As you so well understand the old 
man, you will have no trouble in fathoming 
the young one. How charming to repeat 



134 MITRE COURT. 



during the remaining term of your natural 
life the experience of the last — :how many 
years ? Secretive, self-contained, reserved, 
self sufficient, Mr, Ralph Francis in his own 
person unites every quality calculated to 
ensure the happiness of domestic life. What 
a fortunate girl to have found such a lover !" 

" What a fortunate girl to possess such a 
friend, rather !" 

" I want to be your friend. I was a friend 
before I became your devoted lover; I would 
fain be a friend again, since you won't let me 
be your lover. And yet, after all, I think you 
had better reconsider matters. You would 
have a brighter and easier life with me than 
you will ever have with the son of G. Brisco. 
' The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and 
the children's teeth are set on edge.' Of 
course it is not the child's fault that the father 
would eat that which he ought not, but I fear 
it will be your misfortune. Moreover, the 
papa does not wish the son to marry you, 
and " 

" How do you know that ?" interrupted 
Abigail. 

*' I know it because the dear papa told me 



FRANK'S CONFESSION. 135 



SO just now. His words are still warm in 
my ears. He said, ' Frank shall not marry 
Abig^ail — she is no fit wife for him.' " 

With all her self-command, Abigail winced 
a little. She had known what was in Mr. 
Brisco's mind, but it seemed hard to hear it 
spoken. 

"That seems strange {/"true," she replied, 
quoting Mr. Katzen's own words with a 
•difference, " because Mr. Brisco refused to 
let jne marry Frank." 

'' That was before Frank claimed to be his 
long-lost son. I am quite correct. My 
knowledge of your father-in-law who-is-not- 
to-be-with-his-good-will, may be regarded as 
exhaustive. To quote the excellent Jack 
Jeffley, ' I might have been down him with a 
liq-ht.' I have seen into all the dark corners ; 
and to speak frankly, there is little else about 
him except dark corners containing nothing 
worth having. You have lived all this time 
in the same house with our grim friend 
upstairs, and fail to see that the twist in his 
mind is as easily followed as the twist in a 
corkscrew. Because after a fashion you 
belonged to him, you were too good for a 



136 MITRE COURT. 



nameless stranger ; when he found through 
the nameless stranger's veins his own blood 
was flowing — I speak metaphorically, because 
I believe his blood is only water — he at once 
found out Francis was too good for you. If 
you like to contradict my statement, do so, 
but the contradiction will not make the state- 
ment of less value." 

"Was it to say all this you came here 
to-day ?" 

" All this and more. You do not know, 
but I do, that these people will stunt and kill 
that sweet young life. Better take your Karl, 
with whom you have laughed and been merry, 
than cast in your lot with a young prig who 
as he gets older will develop an even deeper 
depth of unsociableness than his darling papa. 
Fancy always being with the Briscos in life 
and in death !" 

"Fancy always being with Mr. Karl 
Katzen " 

" Ah ! that is better far to think of " 



" Who has already paid me a too lengthy 
visit " 

" And who will come again, charming 
Abigail." 



FRANK'S CONFESSION. 137 

" I fear so, but at least you will go now ?" 

" I will, inexorable one, and give you the 
chance of exchanging a few words with Ralph 
Francis. Adieu! May your thoughts be 
happy !" 

" At least you can carry away the con- 
viction that you have striven to make them 
so." 

" I will not stay, lest you undo the effect 
of so amiable a speech. Farewell — farewell !" 





CHAPTER VI. 



A WEARY DAY. 




y,M^JS IRECTLY the outer door slammed 
iV behind Mr. Katzen, Abigail pushed 
J:i& aside her work, folded her hands on 
the table, and began to think with all her 
might. 

Hitherto, she had tried to thrust thought 
away, preferring to drift into a current she 
hoped might land her in a safe haven. 
But common-sense — a quality in which the 
girl was by no means deficient — never ceased 
whispering warnings in her ear ; and now Mr. 
Katzen's remarks, which had burnt into her 
heart, said, as plainly as words could, that 
common-sense was right. 

Whatever failings Mr. Katzen might 
possess — and Abigail was not likely to have 



A WEARY DAY. 139 

overlooked any of them — she knew his 
judgment as regarded other people could not 
be considered faulty. 

For too many years she had been in the 
habit of hearing him sum up Mr. Brisco's 
tenants not to know he was rarely incorrect 
in his estimate of character, possibly for 
the very good reason that he saw defects 
much quicker than virtues. He did not 
err on the side of attributing too many good 
qualities to his fellows, and he was gener- 
ally right in prophesying where they would 
fail. 

Reluctantly Abigail had been forced to 
admit he was right even about herself. Little 
weaknesses — faults she indignantly repudiated 
— developed with the years, and cropped up 
at times when she least expected to see them. 
Why, therefore, should he not be right also 
about Mr. Brisco ? Nay, she knew he was 
right. 

She knew, for her intuition was quite as 
good as Mr. Katzen's analysis, that Mr. 
Brisco did not wish her to marry his son, 
and that while before Frank came home he 
would have been loth to part with so useful 



I40 MITRE COURT. 

a person as herself, he felt her presence now 
an anxiety and an affront. 

As she sat, her mind was full of trouble. 
It did not regard the poor fare or the hard 
work, because it was true, as she always said, 
that Mr. Brisco had a right to do what he 
liked with his own — that he never bade her 
work, or demanded from her any return for 
the shelter he gave. More, she felt, with the 
full certainty born of experience, that there is 
a greater pleasure in giving than receiving. 
Her labour had been happiness. Even in 
secret, and without the slightest likelihood of 
being thanked, she had always loved to do 
something for Mr. Brisco. What then was 
the sorrow ? This : disappointment, not so 
much to find herself unappreciated — though 
that knowledge did sting a little — but to 
discover there are some natures utterly un- 
receptive — natures on which it is as useless 
to lavish love as to pour water on a rock. 
So long as anyone is useful to them, they 
acknowledge the obligation after some fashion 
of their own ; but the moment that usefulness 
ceases, the sooner the connection is severed 
the better. Such natures are often strong in 



A WEARY DAY. 141 

family affection merely because family affec- 
tion in such cases is practically another form 
of affection for self. 

Abigail did not put this into words, but the 
idea was tangible enough for all that. She 
had lavished a vast amount of gratitude on 
Mr. Brisco, but in a vague sort of way she 
understood now that gratitude ought to have 
been o-iven for what he had done rather than 
for what he had felt. 

It was not compassion which moved him 
the night he found her cold and starved, but 
first a wild idea the frightened creature might 
be his son, and next a sort of horror lest if 
he drove forth the outcast the cruelty would 
somehow be repaid to his own flesh and 
blood. 

He had disliked her for the dreadful fancy 
suggested, but he could not refuse her shelter. 
That was all in the past ; now he regarded 
her as a viper prepared to sting him. Since 
his son's return, he had changed towards her 
utterly. To his mind she was the third who 
spoils good company — an obstacle to be 
cleared away. 

Abigail knew all this. She must have 



142 MITRE COURT. 



been obtuse indeed had the fifteen days 
during which Mr. Brisco tried to prevent his 
son exchanging a word in private with her 
left any doubt as to his feehngs. But though 
they hurt her, she did not think them 
unnatural. She had never forgotten her 
wretched past ; no water, she believed, could 
wash away the stain she brought into the old 
house with her. The dreadful sights, the 
horrible sounds, the moral depravity amid 
which she had spent a time she could 
never forget, seemed branded upon her 
soul. 

It was like a leprosy. To her imagination 
all men, if they chose to look, might see its 
ravages. There was a time when it lay as if 
dead ; but from the hour when love quickened 
her soul, the memory of that old disease 
quickened too. 

She had tried to ease the pain by confes- 
sion, by confidence ; but in the silence of 
night, in the noontide solitude when she 
plied her ceaseless needle, she turned sick to 
think she should always remember terrible 
scenes no decent child should behold ; and at 
such times she murmured : ** How can I 



A WEARY DAY. 143 



carry such dirt and grime across the threshold 
of my husband's house ?" 

For from the time when she gave her heart 
away, that grime seemed to cling to her more 
than ever. The picture of her mother as she 
saw her the last night they ever met would 
not fade away. A gin-palace in one of the 
lowest haunts of London, the lights blazing 
strong and fierce across the pavement; 
women who had drowned themselves in seas 
of drink till their faces were changed out of 
the semblance of humanity, gathered around 
the door, like corpses cast on the strand 
beside the great ocean of intemperance ; on 
the threshold some one threatening, blasphem- 
ing, struggling with two policemen who 
dragged her away. A pleasant vision, a 
sweet domestic incident to prattle of to 
children playing around the hearth! 

" Tell me a story about your mamma," 
she used often to hear litde ones lisp. 

Oh ! what sweet, profitable stories she 
could tell her babes if ever she were a wife 
and a mother ! 

In that dark hour she conjured up the 
ghost of her own childhood till it appeared a 



144 MITRE COURT. 



living presence. Could she wonder at Mr. 
Brisco, who knew all, refusing her to his 
son .'* Let Mr. Brisco be what he would — 
miser, pauper, misanthrope, monomaniac — he 
had kept himself honest and sober. Before 
no man need he lower his eyes with shame, 
and though his son might have gone far 
wrong, even he had turned back in time, and 
avoided open disgrace. 

Sad — sad and weary was Abigail's strong 
heart as she sat wrestling with the sorrow of 
her life, facing the problem of what she 
ought to do with it for the future. Frank 
failed her ; she could not think even of him 
with satisfaction. Secret — secret with her 
when she poured out the very agony of her 
soul in his ear. He ought to have told her 
his story then, as he ought to have revealed 
himself to his father long^ before. Was Mr. 
Katzen indeed right — was it a case of like 
parent, like child ? Was it really a faithful 
presentment New Andalusia's Consul drew 
of her lover, or merely a cold photograph he 
had taken of his moral nature ? 

Abigail's was a healthy mind ; it rose up 
now in arms against the vile caricature Mr. 



A WEARY DAY. 145 



Katzen had presented as a likeness of her 
lover. What ! after all this time should she 
begin to doubt him — to decide what he ought 
to have done — to sit in judgment on that 
which he had left undone ? 

Her head was still whirlinsf a little with the 
pain of the blow knowledge of the past had 
dealt her. Till it ceased throbbing, she could 
not quite dovetail the Frank of Mr. Katzen's 
analysis into the Frank she loved. 

There had always been hidden places 
about him, unexpected corners which had 
sometimes vexed — sometimes repelled her ; 
but what was the use of perplexing herself 
about these matters now } She knew there 
was a work she alone could do, and in lieu of 
steadying her mind and considering how it 
was to be accomplished, she was wandering 
through mazes of psychological conjecture 
that could only lead to hopeless discom- 
fiture. 

" I cannot think about it any more at 
present," she at length decided. 

The day had been marked by disappoint- 
ment, as some days are. Being the last 
of the week, when the offices always closed 

vol.. Ill, 50 



146 MITRE COURT. 



early, and Mr. Brisco generally absented him- 
self, to escape the sound of the usual clean- 
ing-, she hoped Frank would have gone with 
her for a walk, during which she had meant 
to tell him something of what was on her 
mind ; but now, she felt very surely this could 
not be. No walks — no talks, for evermore, 
if Mr. Brisco were able to prevent them ; 
and for one she had no intention of crossing 
his will. Yes, that was the end of her argfu- 
ment. She meant to help to destroy her own 
happiness — and yet not quite that. 

If there were one things in which Abip-ail 
believed more than another, which was pe- 
culiarly an essential part of her unspoken 
religion, it was, that so long as a person is 
trying to do right, that person cannot be 
quite unhappy. 

Spite of the past, she had been happy; 
spite of the present, she believed she should 
be happy. Beyond the cloud she saw sun- 
light ; after the night, morning must come. 
She did not know how, but it would be so. 
Hers was a child's faith, but it sufficed for 
her. In some way, in some place she would 
find everything, now shrouded in darkness, 



A WEAI?y DAY. 147 



made clear ; the crooked straight ; all wrong 
put right ; all trouble changed to joy. 

She had talked to herself about these 
matters In the former times while she sewed 
her seam and her canary sang ; and though 
she might weary and fret for a while, the 
creed formulated then did not really fail her 
in her need. 

" It is winter now — but it will soon be 
spring," she thought with a smile, sad though 
brave ; and laying her work aside, she rose 
and left the room with the intention of going 
out for an hour. 

Brooding had never been a practice of 
Mr. Katzen's " saucy lofe," and she did not 
mean to brood now. 

At the top of the stairs she met Frank, 
closely followed by his father. 

"Are you going so early ?" she asked easily, 
as though no doubts were distracting her. 

" No — I shall be back presently. Are you 
busy ?" And the young man looked at her 
with imploring eyes. 

She stole a glance past him at Mr. Brisco. 
His face had a hungry, eager expression ; one 
hand was stretched out to touch Frank's arm. 

SO — 2 



148 MITRE COURT. 



Though she had never seen either before, 
she recopfnised both the vesture and the ex- 
pression as those of a miser. In a moment the 
veil of years was drawn aside, and she beheld, 
not the rasping, grinding-, conscientious 
poverty caused by necessity, but a devour- 
ing greed. 

" I am rather busy," she said ; and with a 
nod and smile flitted away. 

Frank looked after the pleasant vision, and 
hesitated. 

"What are you waiting for?" asked his 
father impatiently. " Let us be going." 

They went down the oaken stair, their foot- 
steps waking echoes that sounded all over 
the silent house. Abigail heard them go out 
by the main entrance ; heard them descend 
the steps and cross the courtyard leading 
into Botolph Lane ; then she slowly ascended 
to the roof, and opening the door, passed on 
to the leads. 

She walked slowly up and down till the 
peace of the great city, which is like to no 
other peace on earth, entered into her soul 
and comforted it. There was no noise, no 
sound, save the muffled hum which is but 



A WEARY DAY. 149 



the life-throb of London's mighty heart. 
MilHons of respirations join to produce one 
gigantic beat ; yet the huge pulse throbs on 
steadily while men die, while children are 
born, while people marry and are given in 
marriage. Through tears, spite of laughter, 
no matter who may be sick or who sorry, 
who glad, who unrepentant, who filled with 
remorse — the leviathan never stops, but 
pauseless chronicles the moments as it 
moves forward to eternity. 

It is wonderful, high above ''earth's noisy 
clamour," to listen to this human hum — 
softer, yet more persistent, than the fret and 
buzz of insects on a summer day. 

For years it had been a lullaby which 
soothed and calmed Abigail when her heart 
was hot and her soul sad. Even now she 
did not quite recognise the song it sung, 
though she was beginning to understand part 
of what it said to her. Listening to its mys- 
terious melody, she forgot her own troubles — 
the ceaseless moaning lay held in its tone 
an anodyne as well as a rebuke for selfish 
sorrow. 

It rose to her — this voice of the city — as 



I50 MITRE COURT. 



the voice of the world rises to the heavens, 
subdued and indistinct. She could not dis- 
criminate the sob of pain or the cry of joy. 
Where she stood all tones were blended into 
something too faint to be called a murmur, 
too persistent to be silence. It was too soft 
for the ear to acknowledge its sound ; yet, 
had it ceased, the ear would have felt stunned 
at the absence of that for which it had 
learned to listen. What are the wounds of one, 
when the o-roans from some Qrreat battlefield 
are united together in one muffled chorus of 
agony ! What are the sorrows of one weep- 
ing through the night, when through the 
night thousands are v/eeping too ! What are 
the joys of a single life, when happy lives are 
counted by the million ! What are the cares 
and crosses, the successes, the disappoint- 
ments of any man's existence, when they 
come to be told in accents that lose all 
significance, because they are merged into a 
host of the same stories, in words that are 
lost as they rise, and seem nothing, when they 
reach the listener, but faint echoes of the 
chant which since the beginning of time has 
been ascending to God, v/ho alone can dis- 



A WEARY DAY. 151 



tino-uish the voice of each of His creatures, 
singing in the solemn oratorio such part of 
the great work as has been appointed to 
him ! 

Tower, spire, dome, red-tiled roofs, twisted 
chimneys, tapering masts — Abigail from her 
vantage-height looked over them all. They 
were massed together so closely, that a great 
portion of London seemed to lie within grasp. 
She looked till her eyes were dim with tears, 
looked till her heart grew soft with the me- 
mory of all the many days and nights when 
she had viewed these things, which it might 
be she v/ould not view again from the same 
spot for ever. 

She was making up her mind ; she had 
almost resolved on her course of action. 
She owed three duties : to her lover, her 
benefactor, and herself; and the three were 
one. Her mental sight was growing clearer. 
If she respected herself — honoured even 
Abigail Weir, that poor waif who, in rags 
and hungry, had entered the old house — she 
need not fear for lover or benefactor. 

It was right for her to go — right to put no 
division between father and son — rieht to 



152 MITRE COURT. 



be a bone of contention, a cause of offence 
no longer. The way seemed too hard to 
set out upon at once ; but it would be shown 
to her if it was the road she ought to take, 
and made easy for her feet to tread. The 
future looked dark and lonely, but light 
must come, and she was no stranger to lone- 
liness. She had nothing to depend on but 
her own courage, no friend whose advice it 
would be good to ask in such a crisis. Two 
courses were open to her : she could marry 
Frank, and do wrong ; or she could give up 
Frank, and do right. 

She would give up Frank. How, or when, 
she did not exactly know — but she would 
give him up. She was not vexed with him 
now, or offended with his father. 

As she walked backwards and forwards 
over the leads, she seemed to understand 
Mr. Brisco at last. To her he was a hero of 
romance no longer. 

" Romance," she said to herself with wist- 
ful softness — for it seems sad to the young to 
have to abandon a dream or an idol — "dies 
with knowledge." 

So long as Mr. Brisco had been a mystery 



A WEARY DAY. 153 

to her, she looked upon his faults as virtues ; 
not an uncommon occurrence with any of us. 
Through the veil of the unknown she had 
peered at the events of his life clad in the 
glory with which imagination alone can invest 
them. She had exhausted herself in striving 
to form some theory that might fit in with 
facts she could not ignore ; and now she was 
forced to content herself with reality, she 
could not quite cast down her idol to the 
ground. 

After all, she only did what we most of us 
do. What are our dearest, nearest, most 
trusted human gods but gods of the heathen ! 
We make them with our own hands — hew, 
them, fashion them, dower them, even clothe 
them in bright garments woven by our fancy ; 
then, when the day comes that we find out 
what they really are, though we may mock 
our folly, we go on still loving the worthless 
idols, merely because we loved them once. 
For years Mr. Brisco had been as a god to 
Abigail ; and when she knew he was no god, 
she could not turn from the old allegiance. 
Nay, as children clasp a doll the closer to their 
hearts because it is maimed and battered, so 



154 MITRE COURT. 



she clung to that which had been a very 
religion with even greater tenacity than ever, 
though she knew it was powerless to save. 

The old house — the thousand tender memo- 
ries interwoven with it — the panelled dining- 
room, the marble-paved hall, the wide stair- 
case, the little chamber she had called her 
own — she could never forget these things, or 
cast them out of her life ; and so, though 
Mr. Brisco's past held no element of the 
pfreatness and ofrandeur wherewith she had 
clothed it, still the shreds of the mystic robe 
woven in her own fancy hung about him still. 
Love would not be worth much if it changed 
and faded as we Q^rew in knowledofe — if when 
the fruit of the tree of good and evil opened 
the eyes of our understandings, it altered the 
feelings of our hearts ; and certainly, afar off, 
in a fashion all her own, Abigail had loved 
Mr. Brisco. Probably she was the one human 
being, besides his mother, who had ever really 
done so ; and the return he made was perfectly 
natural — he longed to cast her off. 

Next morning Frank came round in time 
for service, only to find that Abigail was 
already gone to church. 



A WEARY DAY. 



*' Which church ?" he asked his father 
eagerly. 

Mr. Brisco could not tell. Never a church- 
goer himself, he yet proposed accompanying 
his son, say to St. Stephen's, Walbrook, which 
was very beautiful, as he had heard. 

Frank made no objection. He was too 
sick at heart to object. After all, this was 
only what had been going on since the night 
he made himself known. 

Well, it should end now : it should have 
ended before, had he known the manner in 
which his father would receive him. He 
had expected a different reception, but that 
accorded disorganized his plans. After all, 
nothincf is harder to fio-ht than affection, or 
even the semblance of it ; and there was no 
semblance in this case. There could be no 
doubt that now his father clung- to him as the 
last hope of a wasted and ruined life — only, 
why should he ruin his own life for a father 
who had never been dear to him ? He would 
not do it. Abigail was first. If he had to 
choose, and he should have so to choose, 
Abigail must be the one considered. 

" ' A man shall leave his father and his 



156 MITRE COURT. 



mother/ " quoted Frank, " ' and cleave to 
his wife.' " 

He would cleave to Abigail. For his 
father's sake he had sought her first ; but 
now he meant to stay with her for ever for 
her own. He would end this foolish inter- 
ference ; he would talk to his father; he would 
tell him what Abigail was in the present — 
remind him of what she had been since that 
blessed day when hungry, and cold, and ill, he 
took the child into the house, and so sheltered 
an angel unawares. 

As he walked along, Frank could scarce 
refrain from speech then, so full was his heart 
of Abigail ; but he crushed down the desire, 
and, meaning to have all out on the morrow, 
humoured his father to the top of his bent. 
For the last fortnight he had been a model 
son, but on that especial Sunday morning he 
eclipsed himself in amiability. 

Meanwhile Abigail had gone to St. Mary- 
at-Hill, the old church to which the Fellow- 
ship Porters were wont to repair, carrying 
nosegays of the fragrant flowers that were 
once deemed not too common for use and 
ornament. Perhaps she had some hope — or 



A WEARY DAY. 157 



fear — she should see her lover there. Women 
always feel, if they were men they would be 
so bold ; and yet when true love ventures in, 
there is not much to choose between the sexes. 
If very much in earnest, men are as shy as 
women ; they would, and they would not ; 
they should like, but they dare not. Nothing 
on earth would have pleased Frank better 
than to be sitting with Abigail in one of 
the high pews ; but he felt it better not 
to press the point, and therefore repaired 
to St. Stephen's, where Croly — Salathiel 
the Immortal Croly — even when old and 
stricken, used to ascend the pulpit, a stately 
figure. 

There was no Croly in Frank's days — no 
one on that morning to tell people anything 
much to the purpose ; but it did not matter 
to the young man. He was preaching to 
himself, and the burden of his sorrow chanced 
to be all about a new life and Abigail — a new 
life wherein he would be faithful to God, true 
to himself, good to the old man — his father, 
whose days had been "few and evil" — and 
devoted to Abigail. As she had been in the 
first head of his discourse, so she was a feature 



iS8 MITRE COURT. 



in its conclusion ; and while he was preaching 
about her to himself, she was striving to see 
the duty that lay to her hand, and wondering 
how she should best make Frank see that 
duty too. As she came out of church, ex- 
changing greetings with those she knew, Mr. 
Katzen accosted her. He had entered quietly 
while the commandments were in progress, 
and modestly taken up a position as much 
out of sight as possible. 

" I looked in at all the churches round and 
about here," he explained, "to find out in 
which you were praying, and also whether 
the devoted Frank happened to be in attend- 
ance. Where is he ?" 

" I have not seen him this morning," 
answered Abigail, turning in the direction of 
Tower Street, a manoeuvre which was per- 
fectly understood by Mr. Katzen, 

" Fear not, my Abigail," he said ; " your 
Karl has no desire to enter the old house, 
which is not to him any more what it was 
once. And so Frank missed you — shall we 
call it ? Careless Frank ! / would not have 
missed you ; but it is too late to speak of 
that. Why I come to find you this morning 



A WEARY DAY. 159 



is, I have one word for your ear — something 
you ought to know." 

" I do not want to know it," 

" Soh — soh ! then you shall not. Good-day, 
my dear, I have been at some trouble ; but 
no matter — that signifies not at all-—" 

" What is it ? If it is anything I ought to 
hear, tell it to me." 

" Nay, nay ; you are too imperative. I 
wish to do you a good turn, and you might 
at least be civil. Say ' if you please,' prettily, 
Abigail — no ? ah ! already the Brisco leaven 
is working. Well, let us go down here, and 
you shall be enlightened." 

They turned into St. Dunstan's Hill, and 
walked under the shadow of the Lantern 
Church. 

" These are the headquarters of our beloved 
Frank's employers," said Mr. Katzen, as his 
eye fell on Deedes' nameplate — " Fortunate 
Frank !" 

"What have you to tell me, Mr. Katzen ?" 

" A simple thing. I do not think our 
Frank knows it ; but I may tell you, if he 
plays his cards well, he will be rich some 
day." 



i6o MITRE COURT. 



" No doubt ; every man has his chance." 
" Ay, but everyone does not own a father 
who has eaten of the bread of affliction and 
drank waters of bitterness in order that he 
may save money. Mr. Brisco has saved 
money — much money. He can't take it with 
him to the next world, no matter to what 
part of it he may go. He has not anyone 
but Frank to inherit, and Frank will inherit, 
always supposing he behave himself" 

"And supposing he misbehave himself?" 
" I do not know. But I should say the 
many thousands would go to endow a Brisco 
ward in some hospital, or launch many Brisco 
lifeboats, or build a Brisco almshouse. He 
might leave them to the Queen as a mark of 
Brisco loyalty, or to me as a token of friend- 
ship. Anyhow, he would not leave it to 
his son ; therefore, use your influence to keep 
Frank on good terms with the charming old 
Qfentleman. That was the little word I 
sought you to say. I will now go to the 
west, though my love won't accompany me 
there — I wish she would. And you will 
repair to the old house, and find Frank not 
there. If you like, I will bet half-a-dozen 



A WEARY DAY. i6r 

pairs of gloves against nothing that he par- 
takes of mid-day dinner at the JefHey mansion. 
It is roast-beef Sunday at Jeffley's — roast- 
beef, Yorkshire pudding, greens, potatoes, 
apple dumpling, cheese and celery ; not so 
bad a meal for a hungry man, and Frank's 
appetite is, or used to be, excellent." 

"When such fare awaits him at Mrs. 
Jeffley's, he would be foolish indeed to dine 
anywhere else." 

" Perhaps 1 can't answer for him. If 

vou ask me back to the old house, I will 
answer for myself." 

" It is not for me to ask, Mr. Katzen ; and 
you know how likely Mr, Brisco is to invite 
anyone." 

" I do. He is so hospitable. I must not 
detain you from his genial company. I feel 
how delightful it must be for you to talk 
Frank with him. But still, think of your 
Katzen sometimes. Adieu." 

vScarcely conscious of what she did, Abigail 
stood for a moment looking after Mr. Katzen 
as he crossed the street and hastened up 
Mincing Lane ; then she turned, and bent 
her lagging steps towards Thames Street. 

VOL. III. 51 



i62 MITRE COURT. 



She had no intention of going anywhere in 
particular, no wish to do anything save pass 
a little time ere retracing her way to Love 
Lane. 

Leaving Thames Street, she went idly up 
Harp and Mark Lanes ; then she dawdled 
for a while along Hart Street and Crutched 
Friars ; then quickening her pace, for she 
knew she had some ground to cover, she 
walked through Jewry and Luke Streets, 
Bevis Mark, and Camomile Street, into 
Bishopsgate. Lonely and silent were the 
City pavements ; the plague might have been 
raging for all the life that was abroad. 

The vague unrest, the unreal melancholy, 
the luxurious sorrow of youth — things she 
had never before experienced — took posses- 
sion of Abigail. Even the streets she knew 
so well seemed strange to her. Though she 
had no consciousness of change in herself, it 
was a new Abigail who walked through them 
— a girl no longer — a woman with a woman's 
fears, anxieties, responsibilities, thrust upon 
her all at once. 

She had well-nigh made up her mind as to 
what she ought to do ; but " I will not act 



A WEARY DAY. 163 

hastily," she decided, as she crossed Crosby- 
Square on her way back. She was brave 
enough, yet the new sense of womanhood, 
still so young, warned her to take no rash step. 

" That which I do now I can never undo," 
she kept repeating in a sort of mental argu- 
ment all the way home. 

Frank was not in the old house. She had 
scarcely expected to see him. Yet his absence, 
taken in connection with Mr. Katzen's sneer, 
affected her more than she would have liked 
to acknowledge. 

As she and Mr. Brisco partook of their 
frugal meal, it was impossible for her to 
avoid thinking of the roast-beef and etceteras 
one long accustomed to the Fowkes' Buildings 
fare had mentioned as the certain meal await- 
ing her lover. 

Everything is comparative. Mrs. Jeffley's 
carte might not have seemed appetizing to 
one accustomed to the best efforts of a 
French chef, but Abigail knew nothing save 
of the poorest living. 

In her memory no decent joint of any sort 
had graced the board in Sir Christopher's old 
house ; and, when contrasted with his usual 

51—2 



1 64 MITRE COURT. 



food, what would their meagre dinners seem 
to a young man accustomed to a more liberal 
table ? 

Spite of all her sorrow, Abigail could 
scarcely refrain from smiling at the contrast. 
If she stayed in her present mind, it would 
soon to her be nothing, or less than nothing ; 
but yet — but yet — how much it might have 
been ! 

They had finished dinner, yet Mr. Brisco 
did not leave the room. During the whole 
of her long experience such a thing had never 
before happened. Abigail attended to a few 
household matters, and waited. 

She was not called upon to wait long. 
There came a ring at the front door which 
Mr. Brisco answered in person. When he 
came back, Frank came with him. 

He was looking tired and harassed ; not at 
all as a young man should have looked who 
had recently partaken of roast-beef and apple 
pudding. 

" I am quite ready," said his father. " I 
think we are rather late." 

" Are you not coming T asked Frank, 
turning to Abigail. 



A WEARY DAY. 165 

"Where ?" asked his lady-love. 

" To St. Paul's — we are going to service 
there." 

" Thank you, but I am far too busy." 

" Busy — on Sunday ?" 

** Indeed yes ; you must excuse me ; I have 
much to do. I am going out, for one 
thing " 

"Yes, yes," testily interposed Mr. Brisco ; 
" Abigail is always busy, and she goes out a 
great deal." 

"You might not suppose so, but I do go 
out a great deal," supplemented Abigail 
gravely. " Good-afternoon, Frank ; I hope 
you will enjoy St. Paul's." 

Spite of his father's presence, he followed 
her into the passage when she left the room. 

"Abigail, why are you shunning me.''" he 
cried, seizing her dress. 

She turned back and smiled. " Don't 
talk nonsense, Frank," she said. " Go to 
St. Paul's with your father. You know he 
does not want me." 

"You will manage, then, that we shall 
have some talk to-morrow, dear." 

" We shall see — to-morrow," she answered, 



1 66 



MITRE COURT. 



and flitted up the stairs, not looking back 
even once over the balusters. She had 
made up her mind finally. She was 
going out — on an errand Frank little sus- 



pected. 





CHAPTER VII. 



A HARD DECISION. 




1 CROSS Tower Street, in Black 
Raven Court, just off Seething Lane, 
there hved the clerk of a neigh- 
bouring City church. 

Abigail knew him and his wife well. They 
had known all about her for years — ever 
since, in fact, "the talk" in Love Lane about 
"that child" Mr, Brisco found in his cellar and 
declined to send to the workhouse. In her 
extremity it was to them Abigail decided 
to go. She knew she had but to say : 
" Mr. Brisco's son has returned, and I do 
not feel I ought to stay in the old house 
longer," and they would help her to the best 
of their ability. 

It was a hard matter for her to speak of; 



i6S MITRE COURT. 



but she put it as well as she could ; and the 
old lady, dressed out in her Sunday finery — ■ 
black silk gown, lace collar, blonde cap trimmed 
with pale blue — "so tasteful" — broke out in 
a sort of elderly excitement : 

"To be sure — to be sure! ThouQ^h we 
are not placed as I should like in the way 
of suiting- you, still, if you can make 
shift " 

" I can make shift," answered Abigail, with 
a half-smile. 

" There is no one about here but knows 
that it will be a great change to you, and we 
must all try to make you as comfortable as 
possible. You are wise, my dear, not to go 
away from the people that know you ; for you 
are too young and too pretty to be alone 
among strangers." 

" I feel I am too young," answered the 
girl. " I have thought it all over, Mrs. 
Limber ; and though I should have liked to 
go a long way off, I know it is best for me to 
stay here." 

" Far best ; and you shall be as private and 
snug here as you please. The only room I 
can give you is high up ; but you will find 



A HARD DECISION. 169 



the air better there, and the stairs won't be 
any trouble to you." 

" No," said Abigail, " they will not be 
any trouble to me, and I shall like being 
high up." 

"And whenever you feel dull you have but 
to come down to us. We will only be too 
proud of your company." 

" You are very kind," answered the girl ; 
''but I shall not be dull." 

" Well, well, I hope not, my poor lamb ! 
Rest your mind easy about the room. I'Jl 
have it all ready early to-morrow." 

It was with a heavy heart that Abigail 
returned through the familiar streets. The 
step had seemed bad enough in prospect ; but 
now it was taken her courage seemed to die 
out of her. A change! — ah! indeed it 
would be a change ! Even the material 
differences previously overlooked now added 
to her misery. In lieu of space, and air, and 
liberty, to be confined to one poor room ! 
To exchange the grandeur — fallen though it 
might be — of the old house for the mean 
habitation and the closeness of Black Raven 
Court ; to have to look forward to spending 



I70 MITRE COURT. 

the best part of her life stitching in an upper 
chamber, with nothing beautiful to refresh 
her soul — all her surroundings poor, sordid, 
unlovely. Still she did not falter in her 
resolution, but held to it with the surest con- 
viction that it was right, because she felt it 
such a bitter necessity. Never before — • 
never — not even when she stole across it a 
cunning, feeble, frightened, desolate little 
stray, did the beautiful hall she would soon 
have to leave seem to her appreciative eyes 
so simple yet so grand as when she contrasted 
it with the lobby in Black Raven Court. 

She could have kissed the marble squares, 
on each one of which fancy had engraven 
some sweet story of the happy past. 

" Never again," she thought, " up such a 
staircase shall I pass. I must go back to 
something like what I came from — only I am 
not now ragged or starved, and I shall be 
with friends. Ah ! my dear ! luxury has 
spoiled you ! Who are you to find fault with 
Mrs. Limber's little chamber on the wall — 
you who not so long ago were thankful to lay 
your head anywhere that you could compass 
peace !" 



A HARD DECISION. 171 

She did not go to church that evening. 
Frank vainly kept guard outside, hoping to 
waylay her. She never came. Again Mr. 
Brisco remained in the room after tea, to 
frustrate any interview which might have 
been arranged. Abigail sat in silence, reading 
till the letters danced before her eyes. Mr. 
Brisco had brought down an old volume, the 
leaves of which were stained and yellow with 
time, and sat reading too. Save the step of 
some passer-by, or the whoop of an irrepressi- 
ble boy, not a sound broke the silence. It 
seemed to Abigail the quietest evening she 
had ever spent in that room — quieter even 
than when she sewed on hour after hour 
utterly alone. 

At last she rose, and, after placing some 
slight refreshment on the table, said : 

"If you do not mind I should like to go 
to my room. My head is aching." 

Mr. Brisco looked up from his book. 

" I do not mind," he said. "If you wish 
to go to bed, do so." 

Abigail took her candle, and saying "Good- 
night," turned to the door. On the thresh- 
old she paused. Her heart was very full ; an 



172 MITRE COURT. 



impulse almost irresistible urged her to speak. 
But one glance at Mr. Brisco checked her 
desire. His eyes were fastened on the old- 
world volume. " Good-night," she repeated, 
with a wistful longing in her tone. 

" Good-night," he again answered, this time 
without looking up. 

" If he knew it was the last night, I wonder 
whether he would speak," thought the girl, 
slowly mounting the wide staircase she had 
so many thousand times flitted up lightly. 
She had some things to do ere she went to 
bed : to gather her few possessions together, 
and write a couple of letters — one to Frank, 
the other to his father. After she had 
finished her packing, she opened her blotting- 
case, and resting her aching head on both 
hands, considered what she should say. 

It was the first time she had ever addressed 
Mr. Brisco in writing. At that moment, all 
which was strange in their enforced compa- 
nionship seemed to stand out clear and dis- 
tinct against the background of the past, and 
showed her how worse than foolish it would 
be to let her feelings run away with her 
pen. 



A HARD DECISION. 173 

She would say what she had to say in the 
fewest possible words. 

" I am leaving your house," she wrote, 
without preamble of any kind, " because I 
feel it is best for me to go. Were I of 
any real use, or even pleasure, I would stay ; 
but though you have not told me so, I know 
I am but an encumbrance and an annoyance, 
and it is only right for me to relieve you of the 
difficulty I am causing. Though you may 
not care for my thanks, I cannot help thank- 
ing you for all the years you have let me 
be happy here. I have arranged to stay with 
Mrs. Limber, in Black Raven Court, because 
I am afraid to go away among strangers, all 
by myself 

" Abigail." 

Her letter to Frank ran to greater length ; 
but was scarcely more to the purpose : 

" I will not stay to cause a division be- 
tween your father and yourself," she said. 
" It is not that I do not care for you as much 
as ever ; but nothing could induce me to 
marry you against your father's consent, and 



174 MITRE COURT. 



I feel sure he never will consent. I tell you 
my address that you may know I am safe. 
I should like you to write and tell me you 
have received this letter safely ; but I am 
not going to correspond with you, and you 
must not come to see me. We were wronof 
before ; we will be right now. We were 
only boy and girl then ; we are man and 
woman now, and that makes all the difference. 
Those were pleasant pleasant days, when we 
did not give a thought to good and evil ; 
but they could not last — they were too 
happy to last. O Frank ! whatever comes, 
it will be always something to remember 
we were very, very happy then. Do not 
be unhappy about me. You know I can earn 
a living easily. Be good to your father ; you 
cannot be too good, for you are all the world 
to him." 



Not long letters, yet they took Abigail 
hours to write. Mr. Brisco, still with the 
suspicion strong in his mind that the lovers 
had arranged a meeting, crept up to Abigail's 
room to find out if the girl were there. For 
some time he heard her moving about. Then 



A HARD DECISION. 175 

he went — only to return almost immediately, 
to find utter silence. Her light was still 
burning, so she could not have gone to bed. 
He did not like to rap and remonstrate about 
the waste of candle, because Abigail, beyond a 
certain small amount, found the money for 
everything that was bought in the house. 
Again he stole away, and then, persuading 
himself she would burn the house down if 
left to her own devices, retraced his steps 
in order to point out the certain peril of 
keeping candles alight to such a late hour. 

There was a sound in the room this time — 
the sound of bitter weeping. He did not stay 
to listen ; he went downstairs with a feeling of 
indignation strong upon him. 

'' What ! did she really expect me to give 
her my son — mine !" and he restlessly paced 
the room and then the hall. *' That is what 
she is crying about, I suppose. I have been 
too lenient with her. I must end this folly 
at once." 

It was folly — and yet — could this girl have 
done more for him had she been his daugh- 
ter ? What had he given her save shelter ? 
What had she given him, always 



176 MITRE COURT. 



Conscience, that night, pricked Mr. Brisco 
sorely. 

" But I was always just to her," he stood 
in the middle of the hall and protested. 
" She would have put by no money for 
herself, so year by year I set aside a sum I 
meant for her. And I have now invested 
that with my own moneys, and whatever be 
her share of the profits, she shall have just 
as though it were an inherited fortune." 

For the fourth time he went upstairs and 
paused by Abigail's door. The light was 
extinguished. He could hear no weeping 
now — nothing but the occasional sob of one 
whose tears were well-nigh exhausted. 

At breakfast next morning the silence of 
the previous night prevailed, intensified, if 
possible. Abigail could not — Mr. Brisco did 
not wish to speak. He had somewhat to say, 
but it was difficult to begin. On the whole, 
he felt he would rather open matters with his 
son than with the girl. 

" I am going out for about half an hour," 
he said abruptly, as he was leaving the room. 

"Very well," answered Abigail. 

And that was how they parted. 



.1 HARD DECISION. 177 



When Mr. Brisco was gone she went up- 
stairs and brought down her Httle box, which 
was hght and easily carried. Then she laid 
the letter on Mr. Brisco's table and left the 
room, closing the door after her. She cast 
no lingering look around, paid no farewell 
visit to any apartment in the house. Soon 
the clerks would be coming and business 
beginning in the offices ; but she would not 
be there any more. 

She went to the top of the steps leading to 
Love Lane, and beckoned a lad who stood at 
the bottom. 

" Is this all ?" he asked, shouldering the 
box. 

At the last, it seemed but the work of a 
moment. Without looking to the right or 
left, Abigail walked on, the lad before her. 
The old house was left behind. She had 
done that which she could not undo — which 
she would not have wished to undo if she 
could. 

As she reached the top of Love Lane, 
and was turning along Great Tower Street, 
Mr. Fulmer overtook her. 

" You are abroad early, Miss Weir," he 

VOL. III. 52 



178 MITRE COURT. 



said, raising his hat ; and then, glancing at her 
box, " Going for a holiday ?" 

" Not much of a hohday," answered Abi- 
gail. Her heart was full, and he had taken 
her so much by surprise, that she could not in 
a moment bring either voice or manner to a 
proper pitch of cheerfulness. 

" Dull weather, rather," observed Mr. Ful- 
mer ; " but we must be thankful it keeps fine." 
Which conversation having brought them to 
St. Dunstan's Hill, he again raised his hat and 
went to his office, leaving Abigail free to pro- 
ceed to her destination. 

That afternoon a gloom seemed to settle 
down upon the old house, such as had pre- 
vailed there before Abigail's appearance. 
There is something almost human about a 
house. In a few hours it can, without the 
smallest provocation, assume the unkempt 
and uncared-for appearance of the veriest 
slut. It can look miserable without reason, 
and cheerful without cause. 

A few hours after the girl's departure, to 
Frank's mind the old house might have been 
preparing for the auctioneer's final visit ; 
judging from appearances, he might have 



A HARD DECISION. 179 



been awaiting the executioner. Directly he 
received Abigail's letter, which, as she had 
posted it, did not reach him till midday, he 
rushed round to Black Raven Court, where 
Mrs. Limber informed him Abigail was out. 
Even had she happened to be at home, he 
could not have seen her. 

In removing to new quarters, Abigail had 
no Intention of merely changing the venue. 
By crossing Tower Street she must still 
remain a bone of contention if she suffered 
Frank to cross the road after her. He knew 
she meant what she said, yet still he followed. 
In her heart she would have been sorry 
had he not done so. It was one thing 
to give up Frank, but quite another had she 
felt he could let her go without a struggle. 

About four o'clock Mr. Fulmer came round 
to the old house. He had done so earlier in 
the day, during Frank's short absence. 

" Any news ?" he asked. 

For answer, Frank, as customary, handed 
him the order-book. 

" Not much doing," remarked Mr. Fulmer. 

" No, sir." Frank's unwilling tongue had 
at length mastered the difficult words. 

52—2 



i8o MITRE COURT. 



Mr, Fulmer drew a chair to the table and 
sat down. The gas had just been hghted, 
and the shadows seemed to be dancinof over 
the dingy panels. Frank stood at his desk, 
making some entries in his cash-book. Mr. 
Fulmer took up a stick of sealing-wax, and 
began melting it. 

*' This is very good wax," he said. " Where 
do you get it ?" 

Frank told him. 

" I wonder why we ever buy wax nowadays, 
when everybody uses adhesive envelopes ?" 

Frank could not tell him. 

" So you have lost Miss Weir," observed 
Mr. Fulmer, dropping a large spot of wax on 
some paper, and sealing it with the office 
stamp. 

Frank was too much surprised to answer. 
He certainly would not have included "Sir" 
in his reply if he had. 

" She is a most sensible girl," said Mr. 
Fulmer. " She has done quite the right 
thing." 

Still Frank did not speak. 

" I think," went on Mr. Fulmer, "you will 
do well to talk to me about it. I am not your 



A HARD DECISION. 



enemy, though I know you have often con- 
sidered me one ; and I have a sort of interest 
in Miss Weir for the sake of old times." 

" I was not aware that you had ever known 
her," said Frank, with a jealous ring in his 
voice which amused Mr. Fulmer. 

" I was referring to Miss Weir's mother." 

"What! did you know her?' said the 
young man ; and in his astonishment he left 
the desk, and came to the table. 

" Lord, yes !" answered Mr. Fulmer coolly, 
looking up at him. "Had not you better 
sit down ? I knew her — let me see, how 
many years ago } — well, at any rate, when 
she was about four, and I perhaps six. 
I had tea in the nursery with her often, 
Mrs. Sandworth used to give us bread and 
jam, and the nurse was good enough to tie 
me up in a pinafore for fear I should spoil my 
clothes. The Dean was a wonderful old 
fellow — could pick up a living as a fowl does 
a grain of wheat. He was a pluralist, if you 
like — no wonder he waxed fat. Yes, Miss 
Olive made a nice mess of her life. You 
may fancy she had plenty of good chances,, 
for she was the image of her daughter, and 



MITRE COURT. 



possessed every worldly advantage Miss 
Abio-ail has lacked." 

" He wanted to marry the mother. I was 
right in my suspicion that he had a fancy for 
Abigail," thought Frank, whose jealousy of 
Mr. Fulmer amounted to a mania. 

Mr. Fulmer looked at him, and smiled. 
He knew what was passing through the 
foolish lover's mind. 

" Miss Sand worth had anything but a 
pleasant temper — yet we were always very 
good friends — perhaps because we never were 
anything more ; and I was heartily sorry to 
hear of the match she made. I have watched 
the progress of your love affair with a great 
deal of interest, and wondered how it would 
end. I did not expect it to end as it has 
done, I confess ; and I feel particularly 
pleased with Miss Abigail's sense and 
decision. I do not think I can help you in 
any way, because I really consider it is a 
marriage that had better never come off — 
but still you may as well talk to me about it." 

" I do not want to talk about it." answered 
Frank sulkily. 

"Just as you like, of course," said Mr. 



A HARD DECISION. 183. 

Fulmer ; " only let me give you one word of 
advice — don't try to persuade the girl to 
come back here. She has no fortune but her 
reputation— and that is one very easily lost." 

" I have been as careful for her as her own 
father could have been," broke out Frank 
indignantly. 

" Perhaps so. She has been very careful 
for herself, I know, and I have admired her 
tor it. She is a very good young woman, 
and if you are ever fortunate enough to 
marry her she will make you a very good 
wife. By-the-bye, what has been the hitch ? 
Why did you not marry her long ago ? 
Come, you had better tell me. You caimot 
have many more mysteries in reserve after 
that thunder-stroke you dealt us of being Mr. 
Brisco's son — and I certainly have not treated 
you so badly, young man." 

" What is it, sir, you want to know ? — and 
I will try to tell you." 

" I want to know all about you and your 
father. You will never be a successful man 
if you do not change your ways, and I never 
like a man to fail if I can help it. You either 
have some unhappiness which is interfering 



1 84 MITRE COURT. 



with your work and destroying your temper, 
or you have none. If you have none I 
should Hke you to look out another situation ; 
if you have, be straightforward with me, and 
I will stand your friend." 

Had anyone told Frank that morning he 
should ever come to like, or even believe in 
Mr. Fulmer, he would have laughed for 
scorn ; and yet the miracle had come to pass. 

" I will be straightforward, sir," he 
answered; "but I doubt my ability to make 
you understand. Even to one's self it is 
hard, at the end of a month, to give a 
sufficient reason for any action." 

" Do your best," returned Mr. Fulmer. 
" I have long ceased to expect impossibili- 
ties." 

There was not much doing. Trade chanced 
to be somewhat dull, and for some inexplicable 
reason Deedes' had always, as Mr. Jeffley said, 
"found business slack" on Mondays. Ac- 
cordingly, Frank was able to tell his story 
without frequent Interruption. He kept back 
nothing, even to his belief that his father 
might, if he chose, live in a very different 
manner. 



A HARD DECISION. 185 

" He may even be well-to-do," he said. " I 
suspect he is." 

" I know he is," replied Mr. Fulmer. " I 
know that he bought an estate in which a 
friend of mine was concerned — part of a large 
property belonging to the Granthams." 

"Just what I suspected," said Frank. 
" This is his latest craze — or rather the latest 
outcome of a craze he has had all his life. 
The Briscos intermarried with the Granthams 
— at least, so he declares." 

" Humph !" remarked Mr. Fulmer. " I 
wonder now why he mortgaged that purchase." 

" Has he done so T' 

" Yes — up to the hilt." 

" To pay for it, probably." 

"He had paid for it." 

They sat silent for a minute ; then Mr. 
Fulmer began : 

" I see a disreputable little vagabond called 
Katzen here sometimes. Do you suppose 
your father is mixed up with him in any way ?" 

" No, I should not think my father was 
mixed up with anyone. Mr. Katzen comes 
here after Abigail." 

"Oho! Sits the wind in that quarter? 



i86 MITRE COURT. 



Miss Abigail will have to mind what she is 
about !" 

"You need not be afraid for her, sir," 
declared the proud lover. " She could go 
round the world alone, and come safe back," 

" I think she could," agreed Mr. Fulmer, 
laughing. "'She has often amused me. Now," 
he went on as he rose to leave, "you are to 
take your courage in your hand, and, whatever 
comes, be worthy of the girl you care for. 
You are to do your duty to your father ; you 
are to do your duty by me ; and you are not 
to be dangling about after Miss Weir. Leave 
her to do what she thinks right, and what is 
right — in peace." 

He stretched out his hand, and gave Frank 
a hearty grip. 

"You have strengthened me, sir, more 
than I can tell you," said the young man 
humbly. 

''All right," answered Mr. Fulmer; and 
then he went away straight to Black Raven 
Court. 

" I want to see a Miss Weir who is staying 
here," he told Mrs. Limber. " If you give 
her that card, she will know who I am." 



A HARD DECISION. 187 

And then, at Mrs. Limber's invitation, he 
walked into the old lady's own parlour, while 
she toiled upstairs to tell Abigail there was a 
gentleman — " such a fine man !" — come to 
see her ! 

" He would make two such as young Mr. 
Brisco, my dear. To be sure, I dare say he 
is nearly twice as old. And don't trouble 
your head about me. I'll just wait in the 
kitchen till he goes." 

In the little parlour, which he seemed 
almost to fill, Abigail found Mr. Fulmer 
standing. 

" No, thanks," he said, in answer to her 
offer of a chair. " I can't wait. I just called 
to know how you feel you will get on here, and 
to say if I can be of any service you must let 
me know. I and your mother were friends 
many a long year ago." 

''My mother!" repeated Abigail, turning so 
sick and faint she had to lay her hand on the 
table to steady herself. 

"Yes; we were children together. Perhaps," 
he added, "you can hardly imagine that I 
ever was a child. Of course I was very sorry 
to hear of her marrlaofe " 



1 88 MITRE COURT. 



" She could not have married a better man 
than my father, Mr. Fulmer," interrupted 
Abigail. 

" I feel sure of that, from what I have 
seen of his child," said Mr. Fulmer politely. 

*' I am afraid I was rude," said the girl 
apologetically ; " but I thought perhaps you 
might not know." 

" I do know," replied Mr. Fulmer ; " and 
even for your dead father s sake I should like 
to help his child. How are you going to 
support yourself ? Have you a sewing- 
machine ?" 

" No — and I do not want one," said Abi- 
gail. " There are not many people nowadays 
who can do plain needlework neatly ; that is 
the reason I get so much to do, and am so 
well paid for it. I really do sew very well," 
she added, with a smile and a blush. " I am 
jDroud of my sewing, and thankful I can make 
enough money to maintain me." 

" You really believe you can ?" 

'* I know I can," corrected the girl. " I 
have certainly lost one good customer lately ; 
but I shall soon find another to replace her." 

" You are a true philosopher, Miss Weir, 



A HARD DECISION. 



and your last remark makes it easier for me 
to say what I want. My mother is always 
needing needlework done. May I tell her 
you would have time to undertake some 
of it ?" 

" I should be glad," answered Abigail ; 
" only^ perhaps the work which satisfies the 
people about here might not please your 
mother." 

" I assure you she is not a difficult person 
to please," he said. " She will write to you 
herself. Good-evening. I am so glad to 
see you brave and hopeful." 

And he passed into the hall, where he 
found Mrs. Limber's little servant, who "did 
for her" by the day, waiting to open the door 
for him, and drop a curtsey almost to the 
ground. 





CHAPTER VIII. 




MOTHER AND SOX. 

INNER was over in Hamilton 
Place. Mr. Fulmer had come up 
from his wine and his coffee to the 
drawing-room, where Lady Adela, his hon- 
oured mamma, was engaged in knitting a 
fleecy shawl. 

No greater contrast can be imao^ined than 
that presented by Lady Adela to her son. 
Big, burly, powerful, he looked fit to slay an 
ox — slight, delicate, with silvery hair, and a 
white and pink Dresden shepherdess com- 
plexion, it seemed as though a mere breath 
could suffice to blow her away. She was a 
foolish and fussy little body. He owned the 
repose she lacked, and he lay back perfectly 
still in an easy-chair, with egs stretched out 



MOTHER AND SON. 191 



and hands folded, watching the tiny lady — 
losing her wool and her needles, dropping her 
stitches, sipping her tea, nibbling a morsel of 
cake, and apostrophizing Fluff as an angel, a 
dear, a darling, and a precious. Fluff, wanting 
to go to sleep, did not respond to these endear- 
ments ; she hated them, in fact, and Mr. Ful- 
mer sympathized with her. During all the 
years he had been Lady Adela's grown-up 
son, he devoted himself to repressing her 
ladyship's exuberant affection all in vain ; — to 
the mother, who could not realize that he was 
not still a child, he remained a lily, a rosebud, 
a pearl, a duck, and any other Incongruous 
article that came into her head. 

Hers was but a poor rag-bag of a brain, 
stuffed full with odds and ends of rubbish. 
A luckier woman never lived ; the elder 
daughter of a poor earl, she married, when 
she had given up all hope of settling, a rich 
man who grudged her nothing for which she 
had a whim. She had children. The years 
flowed on free from trouble ; and now, when 
she was getting quite old, she could still 
relish her dinner, and delight In Fluffy 's 
beauty, and find pleasure in knitting shawls 



192 MITRE COURT. 



and in reading letters from her many friends, 
filled with gossip concerning the sayings, 
doings and shortcomings of various ac- 
quaintances. 

" Are you not sitting too near the fire, 
George?" she asked, after a time. 

" No," answered George. 

" Your face is getting quite scorched." 

" Let it," he answered. 

" But, my sweet, it will make it so red." 

" That is a matter of indifference to me." 

" What a strange child you are ! Do, pray, 
move a little farther from the fire to oblige 
me. 

The strange child pushed his chair back 
about an inch, and resumed his contempla- 
tion of the Dresden shepherdess. Really, 
she made a pretty picture with her snowy 
hair, and beautiful hands, and soft peach-like 
cheeks. 

She had been a lovely young woman, and 
now she was a lovely old woman. 

" Mother, I want you to do something for 
me," said Mr. Fulmer, at length. 

" Yes, mine own ; what is it ?" 

" I want you to be kind to a girl." 



MOTHER AND SON. 193 

"To a girl! How odd you are! What 
o^irl ?" 

" A very good girl — one who earns her own 
living." 

" Oh, dear me ! I don't know, my boy — I 
do not like that sort of thing !" 

"What sort of thing ?" 

"Earning her own living! it sounds very 
dreadful." 

" How would you have her live, then ?" 
asked Mr. Fulmer. 

" Ladies eat so little — she could live on 
almost nothing. Perhaps my ideas are old- 
fashioned ; but still I do maintain that all 
this modern rush and hurry unsexes women. 
In my time, a girl would not have been 
thought respectable who did any one of the 
things I hear of girls doing now." 

" My dear mother, do let us be rational. 
If no women worked, how should we fare 
without house and scullery maids, or even 
your grim and immaculate Tiffens ?" 

'* TiffensHs a most superior person, George, 
and you should not scoff at her as you do. 
But does this girl belong to the class from 
which we get our servants ?" 

VOL. III. 53 



194 MITRE COURT. 



" Hardly ; but she does needlework, and I 
want you to give her some." 

" I fail to see how I can do that, my pet. 
Tiffens has a niece who sews beautifully." 

Mr. Fulmer said something about Tiffens 
under his breath which was by no means 
complimentary. 

" Now, my dear boy," remonstrated Lady 
Adela, " you shouldn't be naughty — you 
shouldn't really ; and I cannot have you in- 
teresting yourself in a young needlewoman : 
for she is young, of course ?" 

" Yes." 

" I knew it !" exclaimed Lady Adela ; " I 
felt certain of it ! I wish you wouldn't, 
George — I really do. I am sure if your poor 
father were alive he would not approve of 
your even speaking about such persons." 

" I am sure he wouldn't care in the least. 
No father ever interfered less with a son than 
he did." 

" He indulged you too much. I always 
told him he would regret it some day." 

" Well, he certainly won't regret it now." 

"My dearest son, you shouldn't — you 
really shouldn't." 



MOTHER AND SON. 195 

" Shouldn't what ?" 

" Speak disrespectfully of the best of 
parents." 

" Indeed, I should be very sorry to do 
anything of the kind. My father was an ex- 
cellent father. He fulfilled the first duty of a 
parent : he left me remarkably well off." 

"He did, remarkably ; so why will you find 
fault with him ?" 

" I have never even thought of finding 
fault with him. I want to talk of something 
quite different. This girl " 

" Now, darling, don't, please ; you know 
how it worries me to think and argue." 

" I do not wish you to argue or to think 
either : I only wish you to do. Look here, 
mother ;" and, as he spoke, Mr, Fulmer rose 
and stood with his back to the fire — a mighty 
figure. " To cut the whole thing short, you 
must help her : / can't ; and that's the mis- 
chief of it. Nobody but a woman can help a 
woman." 

" Really, Tiny, you are most inconsiderate," 
said Lady Adela. "You must be perfectly 
well aware that I have more on my mind 
already almost than I can bear, and yet 



196 MITRE COURT. 



you ask me to help young girls who sew. 
Why should I, at my time of life, and in my 
feeble state of health, be asked to take up 
young persons of whom I know nothing ?" 

" You are not asked to take up young 
persons at all. I only ask you to give some 
needlework to a very plucky little girl." 

" Where do you learn those dreadful ex- 
pressions ? As my brother so often says, if 
a gentleman must talk slang, he ought not to 
talk it in the presence of ladies." 

" Never mind what your brother says now. 
Indeed, it is of very little consequence what 
he says at any time on any subject. This 
girl " 



" Georgy, love, I implore you not to tease 
me. I shall have to send for Dr. Bray if 
you do. I cannot — I positively cannot — 
have anything to do with this young person. 
Think how kind Lady Lifden was to that 
pretty Miss Hay, and " 

" If Miss Hay had set a-light to the house, 
and burnt that old Lifden witch in it, I for one 
should not have blamed her ; and as regards 
the girl I am talking about, you will help her 
for two reasons : one, because I ask you " 



MOTHER AND SON. 197 

(and Mr. Fulmer, stooping, kissed his 
mother's cheek) ; " and another, because she 
is the child of OHve Sandworth." 

" OHve Sandworth ! Do you mean Dean 
Sandworth's daughter, the girl you used to 
admire so much ?" 

" I don't remember admiring her, though 
she was the best partner at a ball I ever 
met." 

" But she made some dreadful fiasco ; ran 
away with a circus, and married a clov/n, if I 
recollect rightly." 

" I don't think you are quite right in your 
recollection. She made a mess of her life 
somehow, I know. She is dead now,, and 
this is her girl ; and I want you to give her 
some stitching and hemming." 

Lady Adela remained silent for a minute, 
during which she looked at her son, caressed 
Fluffy, fidgeted with her knitting-needles. 
Then she looked at her son again, and said 
with solemn impressiveness : 

" I don't like this at all." 

" Kindly explain, mother. What is it you 
do not like ?" 

*' Your getting mixed up, my precious, 



MITRE COURT. 



with such a set of people — girls who stitch 
and hem, and have mothers who ran away 
from home and broke their parents' hearts." 

" Olive did not break old Sandworth's 
heart, at any rate — it was too tough." 

" How can you talk in that shocking way !" 

"Well, you know as well as I do, the 
Dean cared for nothing but his pride and his 
purse. If he had been anything of a Chris- 
tian, he would have left some trifle to his 
granddaughter to ensure her against absolute 
want." 

" Whatever he did, I am sure, was done 
from the highest principle ; and now I want 
you to think of yourself. I can see plainly 
you are being drawn into some dreadful con- 
nection. You may laugh ; but it is no 
laughing matter. Men are so foolish ; their 
vanity does lead them constantly astray. I 
wish you would take warning. If you despise 
your mother's advice, do, my sweet, consult 
some one who possesses experience. Get 
Colonel Holtfel to tell you about that 
widow " 

" I have heard the whole story many 
times." 



MOTHER AND SON. 199 

" Then why do not such stories teach you 
caution? If Colonel Holtfel's father had been 
less determined than he was, a most dreadful 
woman would have succeeded in marrying 
his eldest son." 

"Well, mother," answered Mr. Fulmer, 
*' it is useless to discuss the subject further. 
As you are determined not to do what I ask, 
I must get some one else to help me. Julia 
Maynce, I have no doubt, will be glad to 
do so." 

It was a mean suggestion for Mr. Fulmer to 
make, since Mrs. Maynce was to Lady Adela 
the most frightful bugbear of all the numerous 
bugbears that had for many years troubled 
her maternal mind. Between this formidable 
person and Mr. Fulmer there had always 
existed a close friendship. As a girl. Lady 
Adela had feared Julia Chester was in 
love with her son ; as a wife, she felt sure her 
son was in love with Julia Maynce ; as a 
widow, she never knew an hour's peace, 
dreading that Julia would entrap her poor 
boy into a most unsuitable marriage. 

To use the name of Julia Maynce as 
Mr. Fulmer had done, was to conjure up a 



MITRE COURT. 



fearful clanger, and on Lady Adela it pro- 
duced a marvellous effect. 

" Why should my pet go to Julia Maynce, 
when he has his mother ? Who should so 
delight in pleasing you as I ?" 

" I should have thought no one," replied 
Mr. Fulmer ; " that is why I came to you. 
But as you seem disinclined to do what I 
want, I think I cannot do better than try Julia. 
She has such a lot of children, she must be 
always employing needlewomen." 

" But, my dear boy — now pray do not speak 
sharply to me — where did you meet Olive 
Sandworth's daughter ? and how does it 
happen she needs work ? I only wish to 
understand. When I understand, no doubt 
I shall be able to help you quite as well as 
Mrs. Maynce, though she has such a painfully 
large family." 

" I have no objection, mother, to tell you 
all I know about Miss Weir ; but I had 
better point out the fact that Julia would take 
the whole for granted. It may, therefore, 
perhaps save us both trouble if I go to her 
before entering into any explanation." 

" Believe me, George, I do not ask for any 



MOTHER AND SON. 



explanation. I think it is only natural that 
I should dread your contracting any unfor- 
tunate alliance. Of course it would be a 
matter of indifference to Mrs. Maynce whom 
you married." 

" H — m, I am not quite so sure of that," 
said Mr. Fulmer diplomatically, too wise to 
lose the advantage he had gained. 

" Tell me about this young lady — this — 

Miss I forget her name. Where did you 

meet her ?" 

" In your sense of the word I did not meet 
her anywhere. Some months ago we took a 
branch office in an old City house. It was 
there I happened to see her." 

" How could you happen to see a young 
lady in your offices ?" 

" Very easily ; but it was not in our office 
I saw her. The old Qrentleman who owns 
the house befriended her when she wanted a 
friend sorely ; and she remained with him 
till recently." 

" How very strange, my dearest !" 

" Very — that Dean Sandworth's grand- 
daughter should be literally saved from 
starvation by a person residing in the 



202 MITRE COURT. 



mansion where Sir Christopher Wren Kved 
once." 

" Who is Sir Christopher Wren, love ?" 

"A person who went up to the top of St. 
Paul's every day for two hundred a year." 

" Oh ! darling, you are jesting." 

" I am not ; but we need not discuss him. 
You want to hear about Abigail Weir." 

"What a dreadful name !" 

"It may be, but she is not a dreadful per- 
son. If you can imagine Olive Sandworth 
shorter and slighter, you may form a correct 
idea of her daughter." 

" Good-looking, I conclude ?" 

" That is a matter of opinion — peculiar- 
looking, certainly. The likeness to her 
mother is startling. W^hen I first saw her 
coming down the staircase, I was so sur- 
prised I could not take my eyes off her. I 
had to apologize." 

" Poor dear fellow !" 

"And then I made inquiries about her 
from one and another, and pieced up her 
history. A most gallant little girl. By 
Jove 1 if she'd been a man she might have 
done anything." 



MOTHER AND SON. 203 

" George — George ! you frighten me. I 
do wish your wise father was ahve, to talk 
to you." 

"So do I — but why especially now ?" 

"To warn you against such a connection. 
My darling, it would break my heart if you 
formed an unworthy attachment. You know 
how anxious I have always been to see you 
suitably settled." 

" Yes, mother, I do know how anxious you 
have always been to see me married," said 
Mr. Fulmer, with grim irony. 

" And if, after all my care, you were to 
choose a person of whom everyone belong- 
ing to you would be ashamed ?" 

" I have not the slightest intention at 
present of marrying anybody." 

" Not— this— this— Abigail " 

" Mother, do you think I am mad ? The 
girl is at least a quarter of a century my 
junior." 

" That is nothing," whimpered Lady Adela. 

"It is twenty-five years, anyhow. Further, 
she is engaged to be married." 

" She could easily break that off" 

"And moreover, if there were not another 



204 MITRE COURT. 

woman in the world, I should not feel the 
slightest desire to marry her." 

" Are you sure of that, sweetest ? It would 
be such a comfort to me to feel satisfied you 
are in no danger of contracting a mesalliance. 
It would be so dreadful with your prospects — 
for, of course, though the title can never, I fear, 
come to you, the bulk of your uncle's property 
is at his disposal — and " 

" There could be nothinof more natural than 
that he should disinherit his grandson in my 
favour." 

" I have often thought so, but never liked 
to suggest the idea to him." 

" Why not ? The reasonableness of it 
must be so obvious that he could not possibly 
take offence." 

" He is odd, you know. He might say 
you had money enough already." 

" He has said so, and proposed I should 
lend him some. Another reason why he 
should make me his heir — I could clear all 
burdens off the old acres. But now about 
Miss Weir, whom I really am not going 
to marry. You will help me, won't 
you : 



MOTHER AND SON. 205 

" I don't know. I am afraid, dear child, I 
dare not promise too positively." 

" Oh ! very well ! — then I must go to 
Julia." 

" But, George, why should you ? I am 
only too willing to do all I can. Tell me 
exactly what you want. I am sure if five 
pounds would be of use to Miss Weir " 

"It would be of great use if she worked 
for it — not otherwise — for she is a eood, 
plucky girl, anxious to work, "willing to 
accept payment for work, and capable of 
doing work for which payment can be given 
without any sacrifice on the part either of 
employer or employed. I only wish she was 
a man — I'd find her a berth to-morrow." 

Lady Adela went on with her knitting for 
a few seconds. She knitted about a dozen 
stitches quite steadily ; then she said : 

" It seems to me Mrs. Moreton is the 
person who ought to do something for her." 

" There is no doubt of that." 

" She got all the Dean's money." 

'* So she did." 

" Therefore, you see, precious one, if your 
young friend be really Olive Sandworth's 



2o6 MITRE COURT. 



daughter she has really nothing to do but tell 
her aunt she stands in need of assistance." 

" I have told Mrs. Moreton how the girl 
is situated, and she will give her no assistance 
whatever." 

" I am not surprised. Mrs. Moreton was 
quite the most selfish w^oman I ever knew. 
All the Sandworths were selfish." 

"If she could only see Miss Weir, however, 
I think she would relent." 

" Then why does not Miss Weir go and 
see her ?" 

" She is not aware that such a person as 
Mrs. Moreton is in existence, and it might be 
a good work to bring them together. Mrs. 
Moreton would be much happier if she had 
any human being in whom she could take an 
interest." 

" I am afraid she will never take an interest 
in anyone except herself" 

" At all events, if you could only manage 
that she should see this girl, I think the in- 
terview might be productive of excellent 
results." 

" My dearest George, it is impossible I can 
interfere in a purely family affair. As you 



MOTHER AND SON. 207 

remember, I never had a very high opinion 
of any of the Sandworths, except the dear 
Dean. Mrs. Moreton was always far too 
pushing and self-seeking to accord with my 
ideas. The proper persons to arrange a 
reconciliation between her and Miss Weir 
are their solicitors. My brother always says, 
when you are in any doubt on any subject 
consult an honourable lawyer. The best 
advice you can give Miss Weir is to put all 
her concerns in the hands of some nice kind 
old gentleman like Mr. Brunt." 

Mr. Fulmer looked at his mother in amaze- 
ment. There is certainly no plumbing the 
folly of a fool. Yet, perhaps he was some- 
what unreasonable in feeling exasperated with 
his mother because her silliness, aggravated 
by fear, was greater than he had conceived 
possible. After all, she only spoke according 
to her lights. She had no knowledge of any- 
thing except her own rank and the lower 
orders attached to her class : tradesmen, 
proud to " wait upon" her ladyship ; servants, 
glad to get a good place and good wages, and 
willing to put up with some inconveniences 
for the sake of money and a liberal table. 



2o8 MITRE COURT. 



And it was curious, that after so many years' 
experience of her powers of looking at every- 
thing through the small end of a telescope, 
her view of Miss Weir's position should strike 
her son dumb. 

Nevertheless such was the case, and no 
speech could have served him to the same 
extent as silence did then. He resumed his 
chair, and taking up some periodical which 
lay to his hand, he feigned to be interested in 
its contents. 

For a while Lady Adela knitted on, feeling 
that the wit and wisdom of many ages were 
centred in her own person ; but at length she 
grew uneasy, and said : 

" Why do not you speak, George i^" 

"Why should I speak, mother.-^" he an- 
swered. 

Accident is oftener productive of more 
wonderful results than design. Had Mr. 
Fulmer flaunted Julia Maynce in her face 
then. Lady Adela would not have felt half 
so much alarmed as she did at her son's 
question. 

" I should like to hear what you think of 
my suggestion." 



MOTHER AND SON. 209 

Mr. Fulmer laid down his magazine, and 
said : 

" When a girl is working for her bread, it 
is not very likely she can employ a lawyer. 
However, do not let us talk about Miss Weir 
any more. I am only sorry I mentioned her 
at all." 

" You know, dear child, I cannot bear 
to hear you speak in that tone ; it is not 
right to consider this girl more than your 
mother." 

" There is no question of considering any 
one more than you. I only want to help 
Miss Weir, and I mean to help her. Now 
pray let us drop the subject." 

" How can I drop the subject, when it is 
alienating me from my own son ?" asked 
Lady Adela, dropping her knitting and be- 
ginning to whimper. " I am always willing 
to do good to everyone. It was only to-day 
our vicar came and told me about a woman 
whose husband had deserted her, and I gave 
him a sovereign for her ; and I told you I 
was quite willing to help this girl to the 
extent of five pounds, and it is impossible 
for any person to do more." 

VOL. 11. 54 



MITRE COURT. 



" I wish you would not vex yourself," said 
Mr. Fulmer coldly. 

" You are very cruel, George. You ought 
to be more considerate ; you know I only 
live to please you, and yet you are unjust, 
and talk as if I had offended you. But this 
is always the way — against my convictions 
you force me to do things your poor father 
would have been very angry if I had done. I 
cannot think it prudent, but I will tell Tiffens 
to look her out some work." 

" No, mother; you will not, if you please, 
tell Tiffens to look out any work whatever 
for Miss Weir. What I wanted was for you 
to be kind to the girl, and help her as only a 
woman can help a woman ; but I have no 
wish to urge you against your convictions, 
and I will never in the future ask you to do 
anything for Olive's daughter." 

" But you will ask some one else, love ?" 

" That is quite probable." 

" No, darling, you must not do so. It 
would look as if I were unwilling and un- 
amiable. Come here, George — come over to 
your fond mother. Now tell me what I am 
to do ; it is wrong and foolish of me, I 



MOTHER AND SON. 



know, but I can't refuse my naughty pet 
anything." 

This was generally the result of all dis- 
cussion in the Fulmer mansion. If Mr. Ful- 
mer set his mind to carry any point, he carried 
it ; but such discussions were not frequent — 
for as a rule, he considered few games were 
worth the price of an argument with his 
mother. 

" Now, darling," she said, " say exactly 
what I am to do, and then I cannot go 
wrong. Am I to ask this young person to 
luncheon ? You know I shall be away for a 
short time — so it will be of no use my inviting 
her just yet." 

" I do not wish you to invite her," was the 
reply. " I know she would not wish the 
relations between you and herself to be at all 
on a footing of intimacy. She will do your 
work, and you will pay her for doing it. 
Write her a little note, and say, in your nice 
gracious way, that on your return home you 
will appoint a day for her to call and see you. 
The same day I want you to get Mrs. 
Moreton here for luncheon — afternoon tea — 
anything. Manage to speak to the girl in 

54—2 



MITRE COURT. 



j\Irs. Moreton's presence ; treat her exactly 
as you would do any other young person 
earning her living in a similar way. Say 
nothing about her to Mrs. Moreton, unless 
she asks questions. She will guess who Miss 
Weir is the moment she looks in her face." 

" I am afraid Mrs. Moreton will not 
much like to see Miss Weir treated like a 
seamstress." 

"We cannot help that," answered Mr, 
Fulmer, with a smile. " Whilst she keeps 
Miss Weir out in the cold she cannot com- 
plain if other people do the same." 

" That is very true ; but she will not be 
pleased, I am quite certain." 

" It is a matter of little importance whether 
she is pleased or not/' replied Mr. Fulmer. 
" She is a most wrong-headed old lady." 

" I never was fond of her," said his mother ; 
"and though, dear boy, you often think me 
prejudiced, I know I have a most wonderful 
insight into character." 

It was a month before Lady Adela found 
it possible to name a day when it would suit 
her to see Abigail. Over and over again 
Mr. Fulmer had to jog her memory, which, 



MOTHER AND SON. 



however, was not quite so treacherous as its 
owner affirmed. 

At last, however, she and Tiffens managed 
to look out some fine needlework, with the 
execution of which Abigail was to be en- 
trusted. "A present to my little grandchild," 
said her ladyship to the girl in gracious 
explanation; "and I know you will do it for 
me beautifully." 

Abigail answered that it should be done as 
nicely as possible, and, accompanied to the 
outer door by Tiffens, who mentally wondered 
"What next, to be sure!" departed from out 
the splendour of Hamilton Place, scarcely 
remembering she had observed an elderly 
lady in the room where Mr. Fulmer's mother 
gave her audience — a widow of somewhat 
forbidding aspect, who during the whole of 
the interview seemed to be giving her un- 
divided attention to the Times. 

This was Mrs. Moreton, who asked no 
question about, and made no remark before, 
the girl. 

" I hope/' said Lady Adela to her son, 
" you will not ask me to invite Mrs. Moreton 
again when I am alone. Till to-day I never 



214 MITRE COURT. 



quite realized that she is totally destitute of 
conversational ability. And I am sorry to say 
having her here served no good purpose. She 
could not even have noticed Miss Weir's like- 
ness to Olive." 

" She must be very stupid, then," remarked 
Mr. Fulmer. 

"You have exactly expressed my idea, 
dear child. Mrs. Moreton is very stupid 
indeed — very stupid and tiresome." 





CHAPTER IX. 



THAT DEAR VICTOR. 




)0 you have at last got rid of Miss 
Abigail." 

It afforded Mr. Katzen the 
purest pleasure to make this remark. He 
had been intensely annoyed by the course 
his "lofe" deemed it best to take, and he 
seized the first opportunity which came in his 
way for venting that annoyance on Mr. 
Brisco. 

"It is rather Miss Abigail who has got rid 
of me," was the reply. " I knew nothing of 
her intention till after she was gone. She 
chose to go." 

" I don't wonder at that. I don't wonder 
at that at all. The only marvel is she 
stopped so long." 



!i6 MITRE COURT. 



" No one asked her to stop." 

" And how do you feel now she is gone ? 
I hear your son is Hving with you, and that 
Mrs. Jeffley has lost a lodger. I know he is 
lively company. He used to keep us all gay 
in the old time. I would have come round 
to see you, only he never cared for me so 
much as he ought." 

" Perhaps you are mistaken, Mr. Katzen." 

" Ah ! you play on my words, I see \ 
What you mean is, he ought to care for me 
little. Is that not so ?" 

"What I mean is that one cannot force 
liking, and my son does not like you." 

" I know — I know — and he does like the 
little sprite. Well, she has not removed 
herself very far away. It is not much farther 
from the old house to Black Raven Court than 
it used to be from Fowkes' Buildings to the 
old house. Under present arrangements 
they can see more of each other than they 
ever did. You were not wise, my friend, to let 
our young friend slip from under your control." 

Mr. Brisco winced. Mr. Katzen had put 
into words the precise doubt which was con- 
tinually troubling him. 



THAT DEAR VICTOR. 217 

" I never ought to have kept her in the 
house," he said. *' I made a great mistake." 

" A mistake, I fancy, that must have been 
good forj you ; but perhaps I err — no man 
can judge of another's business." 

" I suppose that is the reason why no man 
can refrain from meddHng in his neighbour's 
concerns." 

" No doubt. People have always meddled 
— always will meddle. It is long since I have 
seen you. I wish I could think you looked 
well — but you do not ; perhaps having your 
son at home is too great a happiness ?" 

" I have not as yet found that happiness a 
burden," said Mr. Brisco drily. 

" Ah ! you amuse yourself at me. Never 
mind, I am so glad we chanced to meet." 

" So am I," answered Mr. Brisco, " for it 
saves me the trouble of going on to Mitre 
Court." 

'* You were going on there ?" 

" Yes. I wished to ask when you are 
likely to have those coupons ?" 

" Coupons — what coupons i^" 

" From your people — from New Anda- 
lusia." 



:i8 MITRE COURT. 



" Oh ! I understand now. I don't know." 

" Are they not somewhat dilatory." 

" No — I think not. New Andalusia is a 
long way off; and time is not up, is it ?" 

" Was the interest to be paid quarterly or 
half-yearly ?" 

" Not quarterly, certainly." 

" It is more than six months since the loan 
was closed." 

" Now you speak of the matter, I think 

It IS. 

" And, you know, we ought to have heard 
something from your Government." 

" So we ought, if they mean to pay half- 
yearly." 

" But, my good sir, how can they mean to 
pay, if not half-yearly ?" 

" The interest was per annum, I think." 

" Yes, but it is absurd to suppose bond- 
holders are going to wait a whole twelve- 
month. I really cannot expect my friend to 
believe such rubbish as that." 

" Perhaps not ; it does seem rather long- 
winded. Still, you must remember there 
always is delay about these things at the 
outset. The more bond fide an affair is, the 



THA T DEA R \ VCTOR. 2 r 9 

more likely to be a little Irregularity concern- 
ing the preliminary arrangements. I have 
been much occupied ; but I shall be writing 
to-morrow, and I won't forget to put the 
inquiry as to when we may expect to receive 
our dividends. They may be advised already, 
for what I know. Yes, when I consider, they 
may be advised any day." 

" Still, it would be prudent to write. It is 
right the bondholders should be told exactly 
when they are to receive their interest. As 
you yourself said, it would not be wise to try 
to dispose of any of them till the coupons 
arrived." 

" To be sure — so I did. No, no ; it would 
be unwise. Bonds always sell better with 
dividend." 

" I shall be anxious till we know something 
definite." 

" Naturally — but all is definite. I quite 
understand that as you act for a friend, not 
for yourself, it makes you a little impatient ; 
though when I come to consider the matter, 
I should say there would be no payment till 
June or the istjuly. Then everything would 
start fair." 



MITRE COURT. 



"June — why, that would be over nine 
months !" 

" Ah ! no — not according to their calcula- 
tion. There is a difference, you see, between 
paying and receiving. The payer is never 
in so great hurry as the receiver. And that 
reminds me. Did you see that letter in 
Monday's Times, from Basset the naturalist ?" 

" I did." 

" And that from the Marquis de Fontelle 
concerning the varieties of game to be found 
in New Andalusia ?" 

" I read them both." 

" Wonderful, weren't they ? What a country 
it must be ! If I weren't so tied here, I would 
go out there and settle. Perhaps I may, some 
day." 

" I hope you won't wait till then to ask 
about the interest." 

" You make fun of me. Well, I am en- 
thusiastic, I admit ; yet rest assured I will 
write, and should I know anything shortly, I 
will let you know at once. You never come 
round to Mitre Court. I wish you would. 
And do tell your son I owe him no malice 
for having cut me out with Miss Abigail. 



THAT DEAR VICTOR. 221 



Perhaps I may yet cut him out. At all 
events, we need not be bad friends over it. 
Do you happen to know anybody who wants 
to invest fifteen hundred pounds ?" 

" I do not," said Mr. Brisco decidedly. 

." That is a pity — I could have put him up 
to a good thing. Oh ! by-the-bye, I had 
forgotten — I must be off — I have not a 
minute to lose ! Good-day, Mr. Brisco. 
Depend upon my letting you have the 
earliest intelligence." 

With which assurance Mr. Katzen darted 
across the street, before Mr. Brisco could 
interpose a remark. 

" That is Mr. Frank's doing," thought Mr. 
Katzen as he hurried away. But Mr. Katzen 
was wronor, Frank knew nothinof of his 
father's concerns, and he was not likely to 
know much of them. The barriers of secrecy 
cannot be broken down in a moment, and 
Mr. Brisco had never yet even thought of 
breaking them down. The language of 
confidence is not one which can be learned 
after a man has passed middle life ; and 
there seemed as little prospect that Mr. 
Brisco would speak unreservedly to anyone, 



mit:re court. 



as that the sun would rise in the west. 
Conscience, however, makes cowards of us 
all ; and Mr. Katzen, being conscious of a 
flaw in the New Andalusian business, felt 
assured that some one had been warning his 
old landlord there might be considerable delay 
in the receipt of those expected coupons. 

" I wonder who will next begin to inquire," 
considered the Consul. " There may be some 
bad hours in store for thee, my dear Karl, 
when they all grow ' naturally anxious.' Be- 
fore they do so, would it not be well to turn 
what thou hast into cash and go somewhere — 
not to New Andalusia? It might; but I think 
not. With all her many faults, England is 
the best place in which to make money or 
spend money — always supposing one can make 
enough or spend enough. Take courage, 
therefore ! Fortune has favoured thee on 
occasion before — fortune may favour thee 
again." 

It was a week later : a post for New An- 
dalusia had gone out, and a post from New 
Andalusia come in, but still Mr. Katzen waited 
for tidings from " that land so blessed," in 
vain. The evening was thick and foggy ; 



THAT DEAR VICTOR. 223 

something was falling in the City besides 
stocks and shares — something wet, though 
not exactly rain. Mr. Conrad Rothsattel told 
the Consul he might truthfully call it " liquid 
dirt," and the statement was more veracious 
than many he habitually made. 

" But he lies not to me," said Mr. Katzen 
to Mr. Bernberg, on one occasion. 

"If you are right," answered that gentle- 
man, " it can be only on the ' honour among 
thieves ' principle." 

Mr. Katzen was writing, Mr. Conrad Roth- 
sattel totting up a column of figures ; and at 
the same moment Mr. Bernberg was walking 
along the greasy pavement, in order to see 
his good friend Karl, anathematizing the 
weather and the climate at every step. 

"Ah!" exclaimed that gentleman, stretching 
out his hand, " but a sight of you seems good. 
It is a long time since you have come here." 

"You may be very sure I shouldn't have 
come here on such an evening except on 
business." 

" Business — and with me — betterand betteri 
Take a chair — that one is easy." 

" Thank you, I don't care for easy-chairs, 



J24 MITRE COURT. 



especially in an office. I have come round 
to know when your people mean to pay the 
interest long overdue on that New Andalusian 
loan." 

" Not overdue, Bernberg ; nearly due, 
perhaps." 

" We won't quarrel about a word. On 
what date are we to receive our interest ?" 

" I did not know you had any to receive. 
Are you a bondholder T 

'* I hold bonds, anyhow, not of my own 
goodwill ; and I want to know when we are 
to receive our interest." 

" I do not know." 

" You do not know ? Then if you do not, 
who in Heaven's name does know ?" 

" I cannot say. I have written on the sub- 
ject. A man asked me about the interest the 
other day, and I wrote by the next mail." 

'' Why did you not telegraph ?" 

Mr. Katzen shrugged his shoulders. " Tele- 
graphing costs money," he remarked. 

" Of course it does ; we all know that. Tell 
me something new the next time." 

" I am sorry I cannot oblige you. It is 
nothing new that I am unwilling to incur 



THAT DEAR VICTOR. 225 

expense which may not find Its way back into 
mine own pocket." 

" Do you mean to say that if you tele- 
graphed asking what answer you are to give 
bondholders when they inquire about their 
overdue interest, they would refuse to allow 
you the amount ?" 

" Yes, that is what I mean to say." 

"Well, I could not have believed such a 
thing possible." 

" Why not ? If you owed any one money, 
would you pay the expenses of his applica- 
tion ?" 

" I might have to do so, whether I would 
or not," was the answer. " But now tell 
me plainly, Katzen : what was the arrange- 
ment about these bonds } What dates were 
fixed for the payment of interest ?" 

" To the best of my belief and memory, 
no dates at all were mentioned. The interest 
was to be so much per annum. I do not 
know whether the ruling powers understood 
it was to be paid half-yearly." 

" Now, attend to this, please. Of my own 
choice, I should never have had one of these 
confounded bonds in my possession ; but I 

voT,. III. 55 



226 MITRE COURT. 



was forced to take them and other things in 
satisfaction of a debt, or lose it. The other 
securities turn out to be of Httle value, and 
therefore I must get what I can out of New 
Andalusia." 

"About which there can be no doubt; 
through which there can be no loss," inter- 
posed Mr. Katzen. 

" I don't know ; when a Government baits 
its loan-trap with a bonus of something like 
twenty per cent., cautious folks are apt to con- 
sider there may be danger in touching it ; and 
the idea of danger is not likely to be dispelled 
when they find that after months have gone 
by, the question of interest is not even men- 
tioned." 

" Pooh !" exclaimed the Consul. 

" I did not at first believe my debtor when 
he said he had received nothing — he wanted 
me to advance him the interest, as if, as I 
told him, I did not want every penny I could 
get for myself — but I made inquiries, and 
found what he said was right enough. Now 
I come to you for an explanation." 

" How can I explain when I know 
nothings ?" 



THAT DEAR VICTOR. 227 

"According to your own statements, you 
knew everything when the loan was being 
floated." 

" Ah ! i^^hcn the loan was beine floated ; 
but I have had other things to think of since 
that." 

" I know vou have. You have been 
putting your fingers in the fire and burning 
them." 

"Perhaps" — and Mr. Katzen looked his 
fingers over carefully one by one — " but they 
are well now," he added cheerfully. 

" They won't be well long ; and you won't 
either, if I find there is any nonsense about 
these bonds." 

" What sort of nonsense ?" 

" Any juggling on the part of your Govern- 
ment." 

"Hey, hey!" said the Consul; "if you 
tap with your knuckles on an empty barrel, 
how it sounds ! Don't look savage, Victor ; 
frowns do not suit your style of beauty. 
New Andalusia is as honest as — what shall 
I say ? — Victor Bernberg. She will pay all 
right — pay interest on every penny she has 
had !" 



228 MITRE COURT. 



" That is all very well, but when ? — at the 
Day of Judgment ?" 

" That depends on when the Day of Judg- 
ment comes. How droll you are, dear friend! 
Why do you fret yourself ? New Andalusia 
can't run away. She does not want to run 
away. She won't be as the wicked Londoners 
by whom you have lost — a shameless bank- 
rupt who, after taking your money, stands 
and laughs at you under the protection of 
the court. You will all get the full debt she 
owes." 

" I'll take care I get mine, or I'll know 
some good reason why," answered Mr. Bern- 
berg, looking moodily into the fire. 

For a moment Mr. Katzen looked at him 
with the expression of a man who has it in 
his mind to make some remark. Then he 
thought better of it, and held his tongue. 

"You will do well to put the matter 
strongly to your people," said Mr. Bernberg. 
" Tell them we do not like such loose ways 
of conducting business. Stay, I shall tell 
them so myself." 

" That will be far the best. You can then 
put the matter as strongly as you like." 



THAT DEAR VICTOR. 229 



" It is a very strange thing their Consul 
can give no information on so important an 
affair." 

''You are in the mood to-night to think all 
thino^s strano-e." 

To this remark Mr. Bernberg, who was on 
his legs, vouchsafed no other reply than an 
interjection which sounded like " Hunh !" 

" Take care of yourself," said Mr. Katzen, 
with cheerful politeness ; but his words fell 
on empty air, Mr. Bernberg had banged the 
door and was gone. 

Next day news was brought to Mitre 
Court that, in crossing the Poultry, Mr. Bern- 
berg had slipped and fractured his leg in two 
places. 

Great was the amazement and grief of 
Karl Katzen ; many the lamentations he 
uttered ; fervent the expressions of regret he 
poured into the ears of common acquaint- 
ances. 

" Such a calamity ! Such a catastrophe ! 
He could not contain of himself with anxiety. 
He had sent to the hospital where Mr. Bern- 
berg had been carried, and the report was 
very bad. Poor fellow ! poor dear fellow ! 



230 MITRE COURT. 



But," he added to himself confidentially, 
" Providence knows best. It is bad on 
Victor, no doubt ; but if I could, I would not 
interfere with the decrees of Providence for 
the world !" 





CHAPTER X. 



MRS. MORETON. 



^"^^yVER since that remote period when, 
securely tied up in a pinafore, he 



partook in the Deanery nursery of 
the Deanery preserves, Mr. Fulmer had been 
a favourite with Mrs, Moreton. She Hked 
him in those days for two reasons — one, 
because he was a saucy, tricksome, indepen- 
dent, high-spirited young monkey ; and the 
other, because he was the antithesis of his 
mother. 

As time went on her hking deepened into 
friendship. A very strong-minded old lady, 
herself possessed of most decided opinions, 
with few of which he agreed, she loved to 
argue against what she considered the fatal 
liberality of his creeds — religious, political, and 



MITRE COURT. 



social. Nevertheless she followed his advice 
as to investments, and consulted him about the 
prospects of many ventures in which she felt 
tempted to risk her money. 

He erred on the side of over-caution, she 
declared ; and it almost reconciled her to the 
loss of profit when she was able to tell him 
the shares of some company he had marked 
as doubtful were regarded by wiseacres with 
much favour. 

She was constantly writing him little notes 
concerning this company or that mine, which 
perhaps were prompted quite as much by a 
desire to get Mr, Fulmer round to her house 
for a comfortable chat, as by any real need for 
information. After her visit to Lady Adela 
he had hoped to receive one of those notes ; 
but when a fortnight passed and none arrived, 
he was forced to conclude his ruse a failure, 
and accordingly responded to Mrs, Moreton's 
next missive, which begged him to call about 
a matter in which he could help her, with a 
feeling of strong discouragement. 

He had failed, and Mr. Fulmer did not 
like to fail. He had gone out of his way 
to try to serve Abigail, and Mrs. Moreton 



jVJ^S. MORETON. 233 

would not serve her. Altogether he repaired 
to Lowndes Square not in the best of tempers. 
When he arrived there, Mrs. Moreton did 
not receive him as usual with both hands 
outstretched ; instead, she returned his greet- 
ing by shaking her finger at him and saying, 
"Naughty — naughty! I could not have be- 
lieved, George, you would serve me such a 
trick." 

" What have I done now ?" asked George, 
whose spirits rose immediately under this 
reproach. 

" Why, you can't deny, I am sure, that it 
was entirely at your instigation Olive's child 
appeared before me like a ghost from the 
dead." 

" Oh ! that is what you mean ! Of course 
I planned the meeting, but I did not hear 
anything of your embracing and weeping over 
her," 

" Most certainly not ! am I a woman given 
to embracing and weeping ?" 

" You never have been, within my know- 
ledge ; but exceptions prove the rule. So you 
noticed the girl, though you made no sign. 
Like her mother, isn't she T 



234 MITRE COURT. 

" Yes — with a difference. She has some- 
thing in her face OHve never had ; yet she 
does resemble her strongly. Considering the 
disadvantages with which she must have had 
to contend, her manners are not bad. I call 
them rather pretty," 

" I am glad that you are pleased, for now 
my mother is able to consider Miss Weir's 
demeanour at her leisure, she has decided 
she is lacking in deference." 

" Why should she be deferential, and to 
whom, I should be glad to know^ i*" 

" Well, I suppose the idea is, she ought to 
have been more respectful to my honoured 
parent. My mother says — and perhaps there 
is truth in what she says — that when young 
persons want work, they ought not to address 
those who are willinof to pfive them work on a 
footing of perfect equality." 

"■ Now Heaven grant me patience !" ex- 
claimed Mrs. Moreton. 

" I trust Heaven will be pleased to look 
upon your petition graciously," said Mr. 
Fulmer gravely. 

" The girl could not have behaved better," 
went on Mrs. Moreton. " I thought her 



MRS. MORE TON. 235 



manner admirable — as free from familiarity as 
servility. What can Lady Adela want ?" 

" It is impossible for me to guess. She 
says Miss Weir was too independent to suit 
her views. As I had not the pleasure of 
being present, I am unable to form a 
judgment." 

" I repeat, George, the girl behaved 
admirably, under trying circumstances — 
most admirably !" 

"Yes, I know — that is what you say ; but 
then my mother tells me a different story. No 
two persons look at things with precisely the 
same eyes. But after all, what can it signify 
how Miss Weir behaved ?" 

" What a torment you are ! I wish you 
were young enough for me to box your ears !" 

"So do not I, for I remember your hand 
was not light ; at any rate, as I am no longer 
young, forgive whatever I may have done 
to offend you, and say wherein I can be of 
use. 

" I am o:oin2f abroad." 

" Abroad, eh !" 

"Yes ; and I have been thinking — now 
do not laueh at me " 



236 MITRE COURT. 



" Laugh — I see nothing to laugh at. You 
are going to waste your substance in foreign 
parts — going to leave me to mourn alone, and 
you talk about laughing !" 

" I have been thinking," resumed Mrs. 
Moreton, " that as you say Olive's girl is a 
good girl — conversant with languages, and 
able to be useful — I miorht take her abroad 
with me, if she likes to go." 

" She is a good useful girl, with a know- 
ledge of French and German. Whether she 
would like to go abroad is quite another 
matter. In what capacity should you propose 
to take her ?" 

" As companion." 

"This is a very sudden notion, is it not? 
When I spoke on this subject before you 
wouldn't listen to a word I had to say — 
snubbed me dreadfully, in fact." 

" Because you wanted me to adopt her." 

" So I did. It never entered my mind 
you would think of taking her for a com- 
panion." 

" Do you see any objection T 

" If you intend to pay her, none whatever. 
I consider it an excellent idea: what Miss 



MRS. MORETON. lyj 



Weir may think of it is of course a horse of 
a totally different colour." 

" Do you suppose the arrangement would 
seem disagreeable to her ?" 

" I cannot form a conjecture ; she is sen- 
sible, but you must remember she has always 
been accustomed to independence. No girl 
was ever so absolutely her own mistress as 
Miss Abigail Weir." 

" She has only to refuse my offer if it be 
not acceptable." 

"You may be certain she will refuse it in 
such case. Have you opened the subject to 
her ?" 

" No ; that is what I want you to do." 

'' Me !— humph !" 

" Are you unwilling ? Remember, it is 
through you I know anything of her." 

" I remember ; I am not unwilling, but you 
must tell me exactly what I am to say." 

" I have explained. What can you want 
more : 

" I want to hear the footing upon which 
you want her to stand. Is she to be com.- 
panion, or niece, or friend, or a mixture of all 
three ?" 



238 MITRE COURT. 



*' Scarcely the last. But she is my niece, 
and must be recognised as a relative. If I 
take her, it will be entirely on your recom- 
mendation. But for that, I should fear to 
have her mother's daughter under my 
roof." 

" I fancy you will have no repetition of her 
mother's folly. But would it not be better 
for you to say all these things to her viva voce ? 
Suppose I break the ice, and arrange an 
interview ; I could then gracefully retire into 
the background and leave you to conclude 
matters in your own admirable fashion. After 
all, I think you and she may stable your 
steeds well enough together." 

" Remember she need entertain no absurd 
notion of having my money." 

"An interview with you would suffice to 
dispel any notion of the sort ; besides, I know 
she has never entertained the slightest ex- 
pectation of money from her mother's family. 
All she wants is work ; whether she will relish 
the kind of work you are willing to provide 
seems to me problematical." 

" At all events, will you broach the sub- 
ject ?" 



JfJ?S. J/0 J? ETON. 



" Yes, I will open the pleadings." 

In compliance with which promise Mr. 
Fulmer next morning repaired to Black 
Raven Court. 

Once again Mrs. Limber's parlour was 
placed at his disposal, and once again Abigail 
descended from her room, somewhat curious 
to know what could have brought him to her 
dingy lodging for the second time. 

" Perhaps her ladyship wants to see me," 
she thought, " though it did not seem as if I 
had impressed her very favourably. Possibly 
she has liked my work better than she liked 
me." And so she tripped down trim and 
bright as ever, but looking, as Mr. Fulmer 
saw at the first glance, somewhat bleached 
and worn. Against the closeness of those 
narrow lodgings, the difference in her daily 
life, not even her splendid health and excess 
of vitality could make a quite successful 
fight. 

" Well, and how are you ?" asked Mr. 
Fulmer. "Yes, I will sit down, thank you, this 
morning, for I want to have a talk with you. 
I have been meddling in your business, and 
if you give me no thanks for my officiousness, 



240 MITRE COURT. 



I hope you will at least believe I was actu- 
ated solely by a desire to serve you." 

" I am sure of that," said the girl. " Have 
you been trying to get me some more work ?" 
she added, with a smile. 

" It has resolved itself into work," he an- 
swered ; and then he told her plainly what he 
had asked Mrs. Moreton to do, and how she 
had refused to listen to him, and that which 
she now offered. 

In perfect silence the girl listened to the 
end. She never interrupted him by a word 
till he had finished his story and wound up 
by saying tentatively : " At least, it might be 
wise for you to see her." 

Then Abigail answered : " Yes, I will go 
to see her ; I will go this morning." 

" Do you think that would be quite pru- 
dent ?" asked Mr. Fulmer, rather staggered 
by such an excess of promptitude. 

" You are afraid it would look as if I were 
too eager for the post," she said, putting into 
words the precise thought which had passed 
through his mind ; "but I cannot even begin 
to consider the proposal till I hear from Mrs. 
Moreton exactly what she proposes. I should 



3IRS. MORETON. 241 

like to travel. I should be thankful to leave 
here, but I can say nothing till I have been 
to Lowndes Square. Yes. If you please, Mr. 
Fulmer, it will be better for me to go there 
at once." 

"Upon my word I agree with you!" de- 
clared that gentleman. 

" And whether I accept Mrs. Moreton's 
offer or not, you must believe I am most 
grateful to you for your kindness." 

" Kindness ! — nonsense! Only wish I could 
do something worth talking about. Knew 
your mother, you remember ; spent many a 
pleasant day at the Deanery. Now let me 
give you one word of advice as regards Mrs. 
Moreton — begin with her as you mean to go 
on. If you don't, you will not be allowed to 
say your soul is your own." 

" Is she that sort of person ?" 

"She is that sort of person." 

" The prospect is not enticing," said 
Abigail, laughing, and then Mr. Fulmer 
laughed too. 

" Her bark is worse than her bite though," 
he remarked ; " a great deal worse. She has 
been going to bite me to the bone often, but 

VOL. III. 56 



242 MITRE COURT. 

always relented. I prophesy that you will 
get on together." 

''Perhaps," answered Abigail. "At all 
events, if I go to her, I will go with the in- 
tention of trying to please her." 

" Then you will be sure to succeed," an- 
swered Mr. Fulmer. ** You are a wonder- 
fully sensible young lady, Miss Weir ; it is 
quite a pleasure to have anything to do with 
you." 

Even this compliment could not quite re- 
concile Abigail to the idea of encountering her 
unknown relative. It seemed like essaying 
a new life for the second time ; but she felt it 
was a chance offered of which it would be 
well to avail herself if she could. She had 
grown weary, most weary, of Black Raven 
Court, of the narrow house, of the kindly but 
unwelcome familiarity of her hostess, who 
could not conceive but that at all times and 
under all circumstances her conversation must 
be agreeable. Further, though she did not 
write to Frank, Frank persisted in writing to 
her ; and though it was scarce in flesh and 
blood to leave her lover's letters unread, she 
felt she was not keeping to her resolution in 



J/i?5. MORETON. 243 

holding any communication with the old 
house. Yes ; it was better she should go. 
She had wished to go ; and now this oppor- 
tunity had come, as if by a miracle, she meant 
to go if possible. 

Yet it was taking a great step — a 
momentous step ; and as she remembered it 
would remove her far away from Botolph 
Lane, her hands trembled so much that she 
could scarcely tie her bonnet-strings. 

She made as careful a toilette as she could, 
took one last look in the poor little mirror 
which hung over her washstand, threw one 
swift glance around the mean room where she 
had fought her brave fight in silence, and 
then went swiftly down the stairs and out 
into the court. It was like leaving the old 
house again, only that she knew even better 
now what facingf the world alone meant. 

On the way to Lowndes Square she be- 
thought herself that it might be well to pre- 
pare a note which she could send up to Mrs. 
Moreton in place of a card ; and accordingly, 
after leaving the omnibus, she went into a 
shop and wrote a few lines, commencing 
" Madam," and ending with ** Yours truly." 

56—2 



!44 MITRE COURT. 



" She shan't say I presume on our relation- 
ship," thought the waif. 

Mrs. Moreton was at luncheon when she 
received this note, which surprised her as 
much as Abigail's promptitude had astonished 
Mr. Fulmer. 

" Ask the young lady in — here," she said ; 
and the next moment the young woman and 
the old were face to face. 

" You can go, Figgins," observed Mrs. 
Moreton to the butler; "I will ring when I 
want you." Then, as the door closed, she 
turned again towards her visitor with the 
words — '' So you are Abigail Weir !" 

" Yes, I am Abigail," was the answer ; and 
there ensued a pause, during which grand- 
aunt and grand-niece seemed to be measuring^ 
each other. 

At last Mrs. Moreton spoke, " Mr. Fulmer 
has told you that I wish you to come to 
me ?" 

"Yes; but I scarcely understand. I did 
not know " 

" Why do you stop, child — why do you not 
say plainly you wanted to see what sort of 
person it was who made such a proposal ?" 



J/7?S. MORETON. 245 

"It was so entirely unexpected," hesitated 
-Abigail, routed for the moment by a candour 
•exceeding her own ; " when I rose this morn- 
ing I had never heard your name," 

" Did your mother not speak to you about 
me : 

" My mother scarcely spoke to me at all. 
When she did, it was not about her rela- 
tions." 

" She was very cruel to you, I believe ?" 

Abigail did not answer. She had nursed 
this grief in secret, and it seemed hard to 
have her bantling dragged out into the full 
light of day. 

" Olive was always cruel — always," went 
on Mrs. Moreton. " I remember her when 
quite a tiny creature — Won't you have some- 
thing to eat ? — help yourself to a cutlet." 

" I am not hungry, thank you," said 
Abigail, who indeed felt as if she were 
choking. 

" Would you mind giving me the claret ? 
Thank you ; you do not take wine ? That 
is right, I never like to see girls take wine, 
though they all do nowadays." 

There ensued a short silence, then Mrs. 



246 MITRE COURT. 



Moreton asked suddenly : " Well, what do 
you say to my proposal ?" 

" I do not know," answered Abigail. " I 
might not suit you, and " 

" I might not suit you," finished Mrs. 
Moreton, 

" I did not mean that exactly. I was going 
to say that I should not like to come and 
perhaps have to leave immediately." 

" Perhaps you would rather not come at 
all. If so, pray make no scruple about men- 
tioning your wishes." 

" I think you scarcely understand," said 
Abigail. " I have not a home to which I 
could return if you were dissatisfied with me. 
I am earning a living now, but if I gave up 
my work I might not immediately be able to 
get any again. I should like to try what you 
offer, but I feel a little afraid. Besides," she 
added, getting more courageous at the sound 
of her own voice, " I do not even know what 
a companion is expected to do." 

" I will not ask you to wash and comb my 
lapdog, because I don't keep a lapdog ; or 
to let the parrot bite you, because I would 
not have a parrot in the house ; or read mc 



MRS. MORETON. 247 



to sleep, because I always do my reading for 
myself: but I daresay I shall ask you to do 
things just as silly and unreasonable, and I 
should not like you to refuse my requests be- 
cause you thought yourself too high and 
mighty to comply with them." 

" I should not do that, I think," said 

Abigail, even while it occurred to her that 

Mrs. Moreton's requests might often assume 

■the character of commands, and might not be 

always easy to comply with. 

" And I want no fussing over me, or affec- 
tation of fondness." 

"If you could see Mr. Brisco, you would 
understand that after living with him I am 
unlikely to offend in those respects," answered 
the girl drily. 

" I shall require you to do exactly as you 
are told, and I expect absolute truthful- 
ness." 

" I think I may say I am truthful," 
answered Abigail ; " being so, I am afraid I 
could not promise to do everything you may 
tell me, but I would try." 

"And I allow no lovers — no Mr, Katzens, 
no young Mr. Briscos." 



MITRE COURT. 



" Even if I wished to see either, no lover 
is Hkely to follow me across the Channel." 

" I am not at all sure of that ; however, 
they must abstain from coming to see you in 
my house. Broadly speaking, I think I have 
now indicated all the points necessary for me 
to mention." 

"There are two things /should like to say, 
if you allow me." 

"Say what you please." 

" I should like you kindly to tell me the 
amount of salary you would be willing to pay 
me." 

"You should have your board, washing, 
lodging, and travelling expenses free." 

" I am afraid I could not manage without 
a salary of some sort. My wardrobe is not 
very extensive, and " 



" I will buy your dress " 

" Thank you," said Abigail very decidedly, 
*' but I prefer to buy my clothes for myself. 
Ever since I have had anything beyond mere 
covering, I have earned the money myself, 
bought the materials myself, and made them 
up myself." 

Mrs, Moreton looked at the girl. " This 



MRS. MORETON. 249 



is Abigail," she thought; ''the former demure 
Httle miss was a counterfeit." 

"Not a bad idea," she said aloud; "but if you 
come to me I hope you won't consider it quite 
necessary to carry out the last part of the pro- 
gramme. I have no fancy for seeing my carpets 
littered with cuttings and ends of cotton." 

" I beg' your pardon," answered Abigail. 
*' In such a house as this I should not, of course, 
think of making my own dresses. I have 
lived in a very humble way, and like it ; but I 
can understand and respect the wishes of 
those who live differently." 

" I must trouble you to ring," said Mrs. 
Moreton ; and then there ensued a pause 
while Figgins removed the dishes. 

" Have some jelly, Abigail," hospitably en- 
treated his mistress, after the butler had 
proffered tart and cream in vain. 

" No, thank you," replied Abigail ; " I 
have lunched." 

" Then, if you will take nothing, let us go 
upstairs," she said, passing her hand through 
Abigail's arm, and thus they proceeded to the 
drawing-room. 

" Now I may tell you what I am willing to 



MITRE COURT. 



give," said Mrs. Moreton, just inside the 
door. " I suppose it is a great deal more 
than you are worth " 

"Then I hope you will not give it," inter- 
posed Abigail promptly. 

" You will have to learn not to interrupt," 
remarked Mrs. Moreton. " I am not un- 
reasonable ; I admit there are two sides to all 
questions, and we are bound to look at both^ 
though of course only one can be right. On 
this occasion I think your view is the right 
one, I had not considered that you would 
lose your connection if you came to me, but 
if we arrange to stop together for six months 
certain " 

" Yes," said Abigail. 

"And I promise to give you fifty pounds 
at the end of the six months, would such an 
arrangement satisfy you ?" 

" It is too much," declared Abigail simply. 
" I could not make half that amount in the 
time. Say twenty-five, because I must buy 
some dresses " 

" I will give you fifty, and find money for 
some dresses — which you shall buy for your- 
self," added Mrs. Moreton, with a laugh. 



MRS. MORETON. 



"And now is there anything more you wish to 
say ?" 

" Yes — is my mother Hkely to find out 
where I am ? It seems dreadful to say, but 
I have Hved in horror of her for years ;" and 
Abigail's face paled. Her mother had been 
the haunting terror of her life. 

For a moment Mrs. Moreton stood silent 
— stood with her face averted, her jewelled 
fingers laid on Abigail's wrist. 

" You do not know, then," she said at last ; 
" you have not heard i^" 

" I have heard nothing fresh " 

" Not that your mother is dead ?'' 

The clock ticked on the mantelshelf, the 
embers dropped on the hearth ; just for about 
the space one could have counted thirty no 
other sound broke the stillness. Then, with a 
gasping sigh, the girl woke from her reverie, 
and said : 

" How did she die ?" 

" Better not ask ; much better." 

" How did she die T repeated Abigail. 
" I must know how she died." 

"In a hospital, from the effects of an 
accident." 



252 MITRE COURT. 



" What accident ? and in which hospital ?" 

" I had been making her an allowance," 
said Mrs. Moreton. " One day, when she 
went to the solicitor's to p-et it, she was 
very " 

" Yes ; I know " 

" As she was in the act of crossing Holborn 

she fell, and an omnibus passed over her. 

They took her to Bartholomew's. I paid the 

expenses of her funeral. If you like to go 

into black you may." 





CHAPTER XL 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 




BIGAIL'S little room In Black 
Raven Court had been vacant for 
months. Mrs. Jeffley seemed no 
nearer coming to terms with her landlord 
than ever. Frank, in Love Lane, was bear- 
ing the burden of an uncongenial life as well 
as he could, while his father continued to plod 
on much as of yore, when one morning Mr. 
Bernberg made his way up the staircase in 
Mitre Court with the aid of two sticks, and 
curses enough, had curses availed, to lay 
London in ruins. 

Hearing the unusual noise, for which his 
previous experiences of Mitre Court in no 
way served to account, Mr. Rothsattel went 
out on to the landing, where, seeing who 



154 MITRE COURT. 



the visitor was, he ran down a few steps 
and courteously offered his assistance. 

Mr, Bernberg, however, acknowledged his 
politeness with no answer, good or bad, 
but continued laboriously making his way 
upwards, garnishing the stairs with a 
plentiful supply of groans and expletives. 
Arrived at the top, he made no inquiry 
whatever for Mr. Katzen, but continued 
his progress across the outer office to the 
inner door, which was flung wide as he 
approached, 

" What the devil does this row mean ?" Mr. 
Katzen was in the act of saying, when his eye 
fell on Mr. Bernberof. 

" My dear fellow !" he exclaimed, " is it 
you ? How glad, how very glad, I am to see 
you. 

Again Mr, Bernberg vouchsafed no reply, 
but pushed into his friend's office, and, seat- 
ing himself on the arm of that easy-chair, the 
comfortable depths of which he had declined 
to explore on the occasion of his previous 
visit, took out a handkerchief, wiped his fore- 
head with a groan, and then glared at Mr. 
Katzen. 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 255 

" I am afraid you don't feel very well," 
said that gentleman sympathetically. 

" I have come for my money," answered 
Mr. Bernberg, quite ignoring the Consul's 
expression of solicitude. 

" What money ?" asked Mr. Katzen inno- 
cently. 

" The money I advanced on those rotten 
bonds, I understand the whole dodge now, 
and if you do not make the matter square for 
me, I will make matters hot for you." 

" I am placed at a disadvantage," observed 
Mr. Katzen, addressing his audience, which 
chanced only to consist of Mr. Rothsattel, 
who, perched on a high stool in the outer 
office, was listening with all his ears to the 
dialogue going on behind him : '' a lame man 
comes to insult me, and I am so polite I can 
neither kick him downstairs nor ask him to 
go away till he has rested himself." 

" Is that your answer to me ?" asked the 
lame man. 

" You can take it for an answer if you 
like." 

Mr. Bernberg clutched his sticks again, 
and with difficulty got on his legs. 



256 MITRE COURT. 



" Look here, Katzen," he said : " if I go, I 
won't come back again." 

" Now do not say that !" entreated the 
Consul jeeringly. 

" So I will give you another chance. Upon 
my soul, you had better pay me that money !" 

" Why should I pay it ?" 

" You know the why even better than I 
do." 

"It is no use making a row about the 
matter here ; you must apply to New 
Andalusia." 

" I have applied to New Andalusia." 

" Then you had better apply again." 

'* No ; it is to you I come for my money ^ 
and it is from you I mean to get it." 

" Very well." 

" If you do not settle with me at once, you 
will find it very ill." 

" My good friend, you are feverish and 
fractious ; go home and send for your doctor 
to give you a composing draught. Health 
is more than much money ; a quiet mind is 
better than many bonds." 

With an oath Mr. Bernberg turned upon 
the Consul. 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 257 

" Keep your axioms for your own benefit ; 
you will require all the comfort you can get 
out of them if I do not hear something satis- 
factory from you before two o'clock this day. 
I give you till two, but not a minute 
longer." 

" So friendly of you, dear Victor. Good- 
bye ; take more care of yourself than you did 
■after your last visit. Rothsattel, help Mr. 
Bernberg into the courts and get him a cab. 
No ? well, don't swear ; let us be moral if 
we cannot be wise. Pray don't fall down- 
stairs — au revoir /" 

And then he and Mr. Rothsattel stood 
waiting for the crash both fully expected. 

" He is out too soon," said Mr. Katzen to 
his satellite, when he found the crash did not 
•come. " I am afraid he will throw himself 
back." 

And having uttered this remark in a tone 
of much concern, Mr. Katzen returned to his 
own office. 

About an hour later he was again dis- 
turbed by a very sleek, very soft-voiced 
individual, who begged for five minutes — 
" Only five minutes, I assure you. A busy 

VOL. III. 57 



258 MITRE COURT. 



man myself, I know the value of time to a 
busy man" — and so, Mr. Rothsattel being 
absent, bowed himself into the inner office. 

" My name is Slim," he said ; " you do not 
know me, I think, but I know you by reputa- 
tion. I am a friend of Mr. Bernberg's, and 
he has told me how matters stand between 
you. Naturally a round peg, Fate has thought 
fit to put me in a square hole — where I rattle,, 
positively rattle. Being a lawyer, I ought 
not to be here at all, but I love peace more 
than any Quaker, and I said to Bernberg,. 
' Now, why should you and Mr. Katzen 
quarrel ? man in a most delicate and re- 
sponsible position, why should you try to 
ruin him ? Why not let him make some pro- 
position ? you know whatever he says he 
will stick to. Let me walk round and see 
him. I feel confident the matter can be 
arranged without unpleasantness. Extreme 
measures are always to be avoided.' So 
here I am, Mr. Katzen, ready to hear the 
reasonable suggestion I am sure you have to 
make." 

" It is extraordinarily friendly of you, Mr. 
Slim, to put yourself to so much trouble^ 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 259 

which I the more reeret as I have no susf- 
gestion to make." 

" Oh, come now ! and you and Bernberg 
such old alHes. You must try to do something, 
you really must. You know he has advanced 
a lot of money on those bonds." 

" I cannot help that." 

" Quite so ; but you can help him to get 
his money back again. He made his ad- 
vances relying on the solvency and good 
faith of New Andalusia, and now, I am sorry 
to say, New Andalusia repudiates the whole 
affair." 

" Again, I cannot help that." 

" But, my dear sir, you must help it ; 
we have no one to look to but you, and 
we do look to you, and we shall look to 
you." 

" I am afraid I must say for the third time, 
' I cannot help that.' " 

*' But you must help it ; you will not let 
your poor friend lose his money and risk a 
most disagreeable exposure yourself for the 
sake of a few pounds. To you the pounds 
must seem very few. Be reasonable, Mr. 
Katzen ; write me a little cheque. See, I do 

57—2 



26o MITRE COURT. 



not even ask for costs ; I give 3^ou my time 
and trouble cheerfully ; anything to avoid 
litigation. Here is a pen ; hand me an order 
for the amount — I have put it down with 
nominal interest, only four per cent. ; and 
I pledge you my word of honour the whole 
matter shall rest sacredly among the three 
of us, and never be mentioned to the outside 
world." 

Mr. Katzen accepted the proffered pen, 
and, twirling it about in his fingers, looked 
up in Mr. Slim's face and smiled. 

" You must think me a great fool," he ob- 
served. 

*' A fool !" repeated Mr. Slim ; " anything 
but a fool. Believe me, as I said to Bern- 
berg " 

" Never mind what you said to Bernberg," 
interrupted Mr. Katzen, " but attend to me. 
I am not going to pay you one farthing of 
the money you claim from me, whether prin- 
cipal or interest." 

" You have not considered ; you do not 
know where this matter will end." 

" Do you ?" asked Mr. Katzen. 

" Yes ; if you persist in refusing an amicable 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 261 

settlement, unfortunately I know what my 
duty will be." 

" Then go and perform it," advised the 
Consul. 

" I regret exceedingly ' began Mr. 

Slim. 

" There is nothing you need regret on my 
account," said Mr. Katzen. 

" You will then really allow me to go ?" 

" As you force the confession, with the 
greatest pleasure." 

After which explicit statement Mr. SHm 
felt he had no alternative save to leave the 
office, very slowly and with a truly sorrowful 
expression of countenance. 

** I wonder what the end of it will be !" 
meditated Mr. Katzen, holding the pen 
Mr. Slim had picked up between him and 
the light, as if it could answer the question. 
He did not know then — he had never even in 
fancy preshadowed the results which ensued. 
Speaking in the after-years concerning the 
great swindle that must for ever cause the 
name of New Andalusia to stink in the 
nostrils of those who subscribed to the loan, 
Mr. Katzen declared : " From first to last I 



262 MITRE COURT. 



was carried forward by the force of an irresis- 
tible current. Not born great, I had yet great- 
ness thrust upon me. I had no more desire 
for notoriety than New Andalusia — yet we 
both compassed fame ! Accident and not 
design shapes our destinies. We are all 
but poor bunglers when we place our best 
contrivances beside the work of Fate. Ah ! 
how grand she is ! How she brings order 
out of chaos, and extracts fortune from 
materials whence we could only eliminate 
failure. The longer I live, the more satisfied 
I feel we are only blind workers in the dark. 
All we can do is to labour our best, and 
leave the outcome to a Power of which we 
know nothing and never can know anything." 

Those who had the pleasure of intimate 
acquaintance with Mr. Slim and his client 
might have been satisfied neither of them 
would bring matters to an extremity till both 
threats and blandishments were exhausted. 

More than once — many times, in fact — did 
the lawyer repair to Mitre Court. " So re- 
luctant am I," he said, "■ to do that which 
cannot be undone." 

"Give me the name of your solicitor," he 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 263 

urged ; " if he is a practical man we shall be 
able to come to some mutually satisfactory- 
arrangement that will avoid exposure and 
avert disastrous consequences." 

•' I will give you the name of my solicitor 
when I see fit," answered Mr. Katzen, " and 
not till then. Meantime, leave me alone, if 
you please. I have my business to attend to, 
and do not wish to be troubled about yours." 

This sort of thing went on for so long, that 
perhaps at last he did feel a faint surprise at 
being haled up to the Mansion House — there 
to answer for having obtained money under 
false pretences. 

Mr. Slim stated the case against Mr. Kat- 
zen ; and a Mr. M inter, who said his client 
(who courted the fullest investigation) had a 
-complete answer to the charge — which had 
been preferred merely in the hope of securing 
a bad debt which Mr. Katzen most properly 
refused to pay — offered bail to any amount. 

This application was scornfully rejected by 
the sitting alderman, who happened to be 
■chairman of a company which had for its 
raison d'etre the manufacture of Fibre from 
Bulrushes. 



264 MITRE COURT. 



The charge, he declared, involved issues 
of such magnitude and interests of such im- 
portance that he could not feel justified ia 
accepting bail. He said he would remand 
the prisoner — which he did. He must refuse 
bail — which also he did. Mr. Minter bowed 
to his decision, which it was impossible for 
him to avoid doing ; and Mr. Katzen was 
removed to quarters where he had ample 
leisure for considering the fresh phase on 
which the New Andalusian Loan had 
entered. 

That afternoon all the bills of the evening 
papers, stuck about with stones over the City 
pavements, bore this announcement : 

"New Andalusian Loan. 
Extraordinary Revelations. — The Consul. 

CHARGED WITH FrAUD. " 

One of Mrs. Jeffley's lodgers was the first 
to bring the news to Fowkes' Buildings, and 
if a bomb had exploded in that narrow court 
it could scarcely have caused greater excite- 
ment. Each inmate of the house went or sent 
out for a paper. Mrs. Childs (in imperfect 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 265 

boots) scudded around the neighbourhood in 
search of the latest printed intelligence. 

"Lor," she said to one newsvendor, "who'd 
ever a thought it — a little scrub like him \ 
He might well afford to have his office fur- 
nished like a palace, when he was robbing 
the widow and the orphan the way he 
did." 

All the persons in Fowkes' Buildings who 
had felt a grudge against Mr. Katzen — all who 
had ever felt envious of him — all who had 
disliked him — all who had mistrusted him, 
now said their say — except Jack. Jack laid 
the paper out on the table and read the whole 
evidence carefully. His wife came into the 
room, but read no paper — reading was not 
much in Mrs. Jeffley's way. She had heard 
the news and various comments on it, and 
came into Jack's parlour, as It seemed to her 
husband, scared and white and in search of 
rest. 

" Cheer up, old woman !" he said. " I 
never did think much of Katzen, as you 
know ; but I don't believe all this. Some 
enemy is at the bottom of the affair. Don't 
be fretting, Polly. I'll try and see him to- 



265 MITRE COURT. 

morrow. Poor fellow ! even a siofht of me 
might hearten him up a bit. Why, wife " 

For she had taken his hand, and was 
kissing it. 

" You are so good," she said in explana- 
tion ; "there never was anybody so good as 

I" 
you ! 

" Now, little woman, let's have no more 
of that," entreated Jack, " I'm not good. As 
for Katzen, I'd be brute beast or a foreigner if 
I didn't feel for him now. Look at the 
years we've known him ! Lord bless us, in 
a manner of speaking he is one of the family, 
and if he wants help, or a friend to speak for 
him, he shan't be at a loss — there — there — 
there !" 

And Jack stroked the divine Maria's hair, 
and patted her shoulder, striving in his 
divine trust to reconcile his wife to the 
affliction of the man he had always dis- 
liked. 

" Katzen will pull through all right, never 
fear. He's got his head screwed on the 
right way, and Mr. Minter is one of the very 
sharpest out-and-outers in London. Bless 
you, he has it all as he likes in the courts. 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 267 

Now lie down and have forty winks, and 
you'll be fresh as a daisy, and ready to enjoy 
a mouthful of supper by-and-by." 

" I will lie down. It has given me such a 
turn." 

And, with hand pressed to her forehead, 
Mrs. Jeffley left the room. 

Jack filled a fresh pipe, and smoked it 
while he again read the short statement, 
which was all even the latest evening paper 
could give. 

" It's rummy," said poor honest homely 
Jack, laying down the sheet ; " I'm afraid 
it's very, very rummy. I wonder if Scott has 
heard the news. I'll stroll round and tell 
him." 

And accordingly, thrusting the' Echo in 
his pocket, he made his w^ay to the old 
house. 

" Have you heard about Katzen .^" he 
began, as soon as Frank opened the door. 

"What about him?" 

" Well, they do say he has bagged the 
whole of the New Andalusian Loan." 

"Whew !" cried Abiofail's lover. 

" They've had him up at the Mansion 



268 MITRE COURT. 

House, and refused bail ; and upon my con- 
science, Frank, the more I look at the whole 
business the uglier it seems. I know I 
shan't be able to sleep a wink to-night. It 
is un-Christian to consider that a man you've 
eaten and drunk with is in gaol. I can't 
overget it at all, and as for the wife, she is 
fairly broken-hearted. Here's the paper ; 
what is your opinion of the matter T 

" I am glad I am not in Mr. Katzen's 
shoes," answered Frank, after he had 
glanced over the paragraph, handing back 
the paper. 

" Keep it, keep it, we've a dozen or more 
at home ; perhaps your father may like to 
look at it. There would be no good in 
trying to see Katzen to-night, but I will in 
the morning. He may want a friend now, if 
he never wanted one before." 

"If this is proved, what will he get V 
asked Frank. 

" I don't know ; a smartish term, you may 
be sure." 

" I'll try to get round to the Mansion 
House, anyhow," said Frank. 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 269 

"So will I," capped Jack. "Your father 
will be a good bit surprised, I fancy." 

If Mr. Brisco were surprised he concealed 
the emotion admirably. He was rather 
more snappish to his son than usual, and in- 
sisted peremptorily on all lights being ex- 
tinguished even sooner than was the general 
practice ; but he made no comment on Frank's 
tidings, and showed no interest in the 
newspaper account when he heard it read 
aloud. 

That night Frank could not sleep. He 
lay tossing from side to side for hours, and at 
last got up and looked out on St. Botolph's 
old graveyard, and the trees which, bathed 
in moonlight, swayed gently in the light 
breeze. He stood at the window a long 
time, thinking of his own past life, of his 
father, of Abigail, of Mr. Katzen, of the un- 
satisfactory present, of the uncertain future. 
A great unrest was upon him ; though he 
could not distinguish their sound, the coming 
footsteps of some strange change were 
echoing in his ears ; more, he fancied he 
heard faint noises in the old house, the 
shadowy tread of those who had once dwelt 



270 MITRE COURT. 



there, but now were dust ; muffled sighs that 
had been breathed years and years before ; 
the stealthy whisper of laments poured out 
on the silence of night by overburdened 
hearts which would never beat again. 

" I can't stand this," he thought ; " I must 
zo down and fjet a book." 

And he passed into the corridor, where he 
was met with a rush of cold fresh air that 
swept through and filled the house as though 
every window in it were open. 

The young man could not understand, and 
paused for a moment perplexed. Still the 
rush of cool night air, blowing, he felt, down 
upon his head. He knew now whence it 
came ; he ran up the narrow staircase which 
led to the roof. The door stood wide open, 
with a great patch of moonlight streaming 
through. 

In a moment he w^as standing on the leads, 
looking at what seemed to him the strangest 
sight he ever beheld. 

High above the sea of roofs, high above 
spire and tower, London's tall bully was re- 
flected clear and distinct against the sky, 
dwarfing the proportions of all things in its 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 271 

neighbourhood, yet forming an appropriate 
centre round which they could cluster. 

It was a magic scene : overhead a brilliant 
moon sailed westward, below lay the sleep- 
ing city, chained in silence, bound and 
hushed in rest. 

The flat roof gleamed like silver in that 
marvellous light, and close by the further 
end stood, absolutely still, Mr. Brisco, his 
grey hair stirred by the light wind, his dress- 
ing-gown hanging loosely around his talL 
spare figure. This was what Abigail had 
seen so often. Yet at the sight Frank's 
heart seemed to cease beating. The weird- 
ness of the surroundings, his father's peril, 
there being but a foot between him and the 
unprotected edge, something in the loneliness 
of that silent figure which had kept so many 
solitary vigils, awoke for the first time feelings 
of intense compassion in the young man's 
mind. 

He seemed to see the desolation of a 
human soul — desolate whether by choice or 
circumstances affected the question not at all 
— a soul cut off from human interests, human 
hope, human pleasure ; a soul born, after a 



:272 MITRE COURT. 



fashion, deaf and dumb and blind, that had 
ideas to which it could not give expression, 
that could not win love, yet remained wretched 
for want of it. 

He stepped out to the verge of the flat 
roof and got between his father and danger. 

*' Come," he said, remembering Abigail's 
formula ; " the night air is keen, and you are 
not wise to brave it. Come," and he led his 
father downstairs. 

When they met next morning at breakfast 
neither referred to their meeting: under the 
moonlight. 

Frank, sick and anxious, scarcely tasted 
food, and Mr. Brisco rose from table after 
swallowing one cup of tea. 

" I shall not be back till evening, pro- 
bably," he said, and left the house. 

Frank only waited till one of his principals 
arrived, and then he went straight off to the 
Mansion House, 

The Court was crammed ; with difficulty 
he got standing room. Business was only 
just beginning ; a few charges had first to be 
disposed of; then Mr. Katzen was brought 
up. 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. . 273 



** Takes it cool, don't he ?" Frank heard one 
man say to another, but he could not see the 
consul's face, Mr. Jeffley, seated in a further 
corner together with his father, and Mr. Bern- 
berg, and a host of persons whose faces were 
familiar to him. As he stood on tip-toe to look 
around he heard some one speaking. It was 
Mr. Minter addressing the Lord Mayor, who 
sat instead of the gentleman connected with 
the Bulrush Fibre Company. He began by 
complaining of the treatment to which his client 
had been subjected. Why, because a person 
who lent money at a rate per cent, which Mr. 
Minter felt himself incompetent to reckon 
without the aid of a professional accountant, 
chose to accept bonds which at a moment's 
notice he could not convert into hard cash, a 
gentleman who chanced to be merely an agent 
in the affair was to be seized and victimized, 
he, Mr. Minter, professed himself quite 
unable to tell. On the previous day (instructed 
so hastily as he had been) he did not grasp 
the facts of the case. He knew them now, 
and claimed to have his client discharged at 
once. 

Mr. Katzen agreed to give so many bonds 

VOL. III. 58 



274 ' MITRE COURT. 



in consideration of so much money. He had 
fulfilled his agreement. He was not answer- 
able for any delay or irregularity. He had 
given the bonds. Could Mr. Slim, or 
Mr. Anybody Else acting on behalf of his 
client, say Mr. Katzen had not done all he 
agreed and was bound to do ? He, Mr 
M inter, thought he might say without fear of 
contradiction this was one of the most infa- 
mous cases ever brought into a court of law. 
Fraudulent pretence indeed ! So far from Mr. 
Katzen having been guilty of obtaining money 
by misrepresentation, it was Mr. Bernberg 
who had endeavoured, unsuccessfully, he, Mr. 
Minter, rejoiced to say, to extort money by 
the most shameful intimidation. For weeks 
he had been pursuing his scandalous tactics, 
and it was only when he found Mr. Katzen 
remained absolutely indifferent to his threats 
that he resorted to the desperate expedient of 
endeavouring to convert a court of justice into 
an office for the collection of debts. ' I thank 
God, however,' Mr. Minter declared, 'though 
Justice is commonly represented with a band- 
age over her eyes, she was not to be led 
blindfolded into such a trap as this.' 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 275 

The matter was one which never ought to 
have been brought before his Lordship, but as 
it had been brought, he hoped he would mark 
his sense of the nature of the course taken. So 
far from Mr. Katzen being conscious of wrong, 
he had never till the previous day consulted a 
solicitor concerning the charges made against 
him. Strong in his innocence, he walked 
calmly forward, unmindful of and indifferent 
to the menaces of a man who once professed 
to be his friend. Because New Andalusia 
chose to repudiate her liabilities, was a gentle- 
man to be dragged out of his office and 
placed at the bar like a common felon? If 
such things were to be permitted, who would 
be safe ? — not Rothschild or Baring, or any 
great financier— not the Bank of England 
itself. He, Mr. Minter, had no more to say. 
His lordship, than whom no man had a larger 
or wider experience of business, would not, 
Mr. Minter felt certain, allow his own court to 
be used for purposes of extortion. 

His lordship did know a great deal of 
business, having made all his money in trade ; 
yet, strange to say, the case did not look to 
him exactly as it did to Mr. Minter. 'He 

58-2 



276 MITRE COURT. 



had his doubts about the Consul, and though 
he knew, as regarded the character of prose- 
cutor and accused, it was much " six of one 
and half a dozen of the other," he did not 
feel disposed to dismiss the matter after 
the summary fashion Mr. M inter indicated. 
On the other hand, he did not see how he 
could keep Mr. Katzen in durance vile.. 
What Mr. Minter said was perfectly true. 
Legally, the Consul had done no wrong. 
Supposing even that he had appropriated the 
money — no creditor could touch him criminally 
— it would be a question for another tribunal 
to decide whether he could be touched at all. 
It was not the first time Mr, Slim was clearly 
wrong — for the fiftieth time Mr. Minter 
was as clearly right. His certainly was a 
view which would not have occurred to every- 
body. Now it had been advanced, however, 
there was no gainsaying it. Therefore, the 
Lord Mayor stated he had nothing to do 
except with the purely legal question. Whether 
or not the Consul for New Andalusia had 
acted fairly or unfairly by those he repre- 
sented was quite outside the matter before 
him — as regarded that, he could not and did 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 277 

not desire to express an opinion. Nothing 
as yet had been submitted to him which justi- 
fied an arrest for false representation. The 
prisoner would therefore be discharged. 

" Without a stain on his character, my 
lord," unwisely adventured Mr. Minter, gener- 
ally astute enough to leave well alone. 

'' I have nothing to do with that," said the 
Lord Mayor ; " I can only deal with the 
matter before me." 

It was neither guilty nor not guilty — and 
those who had trusted New Andalusia and 
New Andalusia's Consul were free to make 
what they could out of the decision. 

" Very fishy, I call it," said Mr. Jeffley, as 
he and Frank walked along King William 
Street together. " I was sorry for him last 
night, but I am not sorry for him now. I 
always thought the man a little sneak — now 
I am sorely afraid he is an arrant rogue." 

If there were qualities in which Mr. 
Katzen was deficient, impudent courage 
could not be reckoned amongst them. Such 
a charge as he had been called upon to meet 
might have daunted many a man, but New 
Andalusia's Consul was not daunted. With- 



278 MITRE COURT. 



out further delay than that necessitated by- 
changing his Hnen and getting something to 
eat, he repaired to Mitre Court, airing him- 
self in the sight of all men, and walking 
through the City streets as though such places 
as Houses of Detention and the Police 
Courts had no existence. To Mr. Rothsattel, 
who had, indeed, only shown at the office 
after hearing the Lord Mayor's decision, he 
did not vouchsafe any remark save on the 
fineness of the weather, and passed straight 
into his office as though nothing special had 
occurred since last he entered it. 

" I have had a great many persons here 
to see you, sir," said Mr. Rothsattel. " Most 
of them left messages that they would call 
again to-morrow ; but Mr. Brisco and Mrs. 
Jeffley said they would return about four." 

" Very good," said Mr. Katzen. " De- 
lighted to see Mrs. Jeffley and Mr. Brisco at 
any time." 

While they were speaking Mr. Brisco 
entered. He was paler even than usual, but 
otherwise showed no sign of discomposure. 

" What am I to tell my friend," he asked^ 
" about this business V 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 279 

"Just what you like," answered Mr. 
Katzen, with a large liberality. 

" After what has occurred he will wish to 
know whether there is any shadow of truth 
in the statements advanced by Mr. Bernberg." 

" I dare say — no doubt." 

" Where would it be best for him to apply 
for information ?" 

" He had best write to New Andalusia." 

" New Andalusia is a long way off." 

Mr. Katzen shruofaed his shoulders. 

" If he likes not to write to New Andalusia 
he can go to the devil." 

" That is further still." 

" Is it ? I know not. All I know is I 
cannot be troubled about the matter. I have 
my own business to attend to." 

" I believe, Mr. Katzen, that what Mr. 
Bernberg says is quite true — that you have 
appropriated the whole of this loan." 

*' You may believe what you like. To me 
it signifies not." 

"If you suppose for a moment that you 
will be allowed to keep the money, that people 
will sit down and quietly allow themselves to 
be fleeced, you are greatly mistaken." 



28o MITRE COURT. 



" People may do what they can. Roth- 
sattel, open the door for Mr. Brisco. He is 
p-oing-." 

** Yes, Mr. Katzen, I am — to take the best 
advice in London on the matter." 

" That will cost much. Good-day, Mr. 
Brisco. Did I not hear Mrs. Jeffley's voice, 
Rothsattel .'* Show her in. Now, my dear 
friend, what can I do for you ?" 

" Oh ! Mr. Katzen, say all this is not true. 
I feel quite distracted. I cannot say a word 
to anybody, and they have all been talking 
so at our house." 

" When did they not talk at your house ?" 

" I should not care for the talk if I knew 
it was not true ; but they have got up dread- 
ful things about you. Still, whatever you 
have done, and whatever happens, you will 
see me righted, won't you T' 

" Of course you will be as right as all the 
rest. 

" All I ask is my money back ; I do not care 
about the profits — you can keep them ; only 
give me the hundreds my husband trusted 
me with into my hand now, and I will bless 
you on my bended knees." 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 



" My most dear Mrs. Jeffley, if I would 
let you go on your bended knees, what good 
could it do me ? Make yourself easy about 
the money ; it is quite safe ; it could not be 
safer." 

" But I want it to be safe with me. I 
never closed my eyes all last night. I am 
sure they must be a sight to see, swelled 
up with crying and want of sleep. If any- 
thing was to go wrong with that money, I 
never could look Jack in the face again." 

" Why not ? You can do no wrong, to his 
thinking. He believes in you as much as 
you believe in yourself." 

" That is just it. I never ought to have 
parted from the money without his know- 
ledge." 

" You did it all for good." 

** I did ; but if loss comes, it will be all for 
bad. Oh, Mr. Katzen ! if you have deceived 
other people do not deceive me ; after all the 
years I have known you and tried to help 
you, don't be wicked enough to cheat me." 

" ' Cheat' is a very nasty word," said Mr. 
Katzen, with an assumption of anger. 

"It won't hurt you if you are acting fair. 



MITRE COURT. 



Just give me back my own, that's all I 
ask." 

" I know ; but you cannot suppose I am 
going to make myself answerable for the 
New Andalusian Loan ; that would be a 
pretty thing." 

"If you have used the money, as they say 
you have, you ought to return it." 

" I have no money lo return. You must 
go to New Andalusia for it." 

" But I know nothing about New Anda- 
lusia. It was you I trusted, not any out- 
landish country beyond the sea." 

"It was to New Andalusia you looked for 
your profit." 

" I have told you I do not want any profit, 
only my own back again." 

" I fear you will have to wait a little." 

" No, Mr. Katzen ; I am not going to 
wait." 

*' What will you do, then .?" 

" Have my money by fair means or foul. 
I should not like to hurt you, but I must 
have my money. I am sure if anybody had 
told me you ever could have treated me so 
badly, I would not have believed them." 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 285 

" Well, Mrs. Jeffley, as you won't listen 
to reason, the best advice I can give you 
is to go to some respectable lawyer. He, 
perhaps, will tell you how to get your 
money back from New Andalusia. I confess 
I cannot." 

" And this is all you have to say to^ 
me t 

" I am afraid I can add nothing more." 

" Then what I have to say is, you are a 
bad, bad man, and I wish I had never seen 
you. I do — I do — I do !" gasped Mrs. 
Jeffley, bursting into tears. 

" I am so sorry to have made you cry ; but 
you had better go home and cry. If any- 
one came in it would look bad for you to be 
seen crying here. All the world will be 
coming by-and-by about its money. You are 
one of many. Rest content ; the money is 
quite safe, far safer than it would be with 
you. Now — now — now, please don't make 
a scene ; I cannot let you make a scene. An 
office is not a fit place for a scene. The per- 
son to manage this matter is your husband. 
Ladies ought not to appear in business ; no> 
not by no means." 



MITRE COURT. 



" You are a dishonest wretch, and I — I 
thought you would not have wronged me for 
the world." 

" Here, Rothsattel ! you take Mrs. JefFley 
to the 'bus. She is a good deal upset, and it 
hurts me to see her. Perhaps she would 
prefer a cab. Farewell, dear friend ; I hope 
you will be better soon. Trust to me. I 
shall go at once to New Andalusia and set 
matters straight. It is indeed a shame that 
the folly of Bernberg should have made so 
many people anxious." 

"It is a shame that any man should be 
such a rogue as you are." 

But this last arrow failed to reach its 
mark. Mr. Katzen had already closed his 
door and locked it, leaving the admirable 
Rothsattel to get rid of poor Mrs. Jeffley as 
best he could. 

What a commotion there was that day 
among all who had invested anything in New 
Andalusia ; what a rushing there was to 
Mitre Court ; what seeking for comfort and 
findinof none ; what consultinqf of friends and 
solicitors ; what clinging to straws ; what 
hoping against hope ! These things are 



THE BUBBLE BURSTS. 285 

written in the annals of every swindle, small 
and great, that the world has known. 

It was late when, tired out, Mr. Brisca 
returned to the old house. He was like a 
man distraught. He could not rest, and he 
could not eat — neither could he sit still ! He 
had passed the limit of his mental strength, 
and could dissimulate no longer ; he paced 
the hall till the sound of his unsteady steps 
drove Frank almost mad. Up and down, up 
and down, with the hopeless monotony of a 
chained animal, walked the ruined man. 

" Have you lost anything by Mr. Katzen, 
father ?" Frank ventured, when at last the 
sight of his misery grew insupportable. 

" All — all !" was the answer ; " the savings 

of years — the hope and purpose of my life — 

I" 
gone ! 

After hours, his son persuaded him to lie 
down. 

'* I will sit beside you," he said, as he sup- 
ported the tottering and trembling man up- 
stairs ; and so through the darkness and 
through the dawn he kept his vigil, as 
Abigail had so often kept hers. 

Midnight had long sounded from all the 



286 MITRE COURT. 



City clocks before Mr. Brisco dropped off 
into an uneasy sleep. He tossed from side 
to side, and murmured broken sentences, 
moaning and mourning over his lost life, till 
his son's heart was wrung with anguish and 
pity. 

Towards morning he opened his eyes and 
looked wildly around. 

" Where is she T he asked. 

" Do you mean my mother ?" asked Frank, 
thinking the old sorrow was coming upper- 
most once more. 

But Mr. Brisco shook his head. 

" Abigail ?" 

" Yes. Where is she .'*" 

" She has left us," said Frank softly. 
" You wished her to go ; she is abroad with 
her aunt." 

'' Ah ! I had forgotten. I remember now." 



And Mr. Brisco said no more. 




CHAPTER XII. 



THE END OF THE LOAN. 




MAN cannot lead the life Mr. 
Brisco has done without damas- 
ing his constitution beyond re- 
pair," said the doctor who had been called in, 
to Mr. Brisco's son. " I do not tell you that 
he will die. With good nursing and constant 
care there is little danger of that for many a 
year ; but he will never be the man he was 
again. This shock has been too much for 
him. He must give up business, and be idle 
for the rest of his days. I wish we had Miss 
Weir here now. She managed him better 
than anybody else ever can. She had the 
knack of letting him alone. But she is abroad, 
I understand." 

" Yes," answered Frank ; " and in any 



MITRE COURT. 



case I could not ask her to come to us. She 
is with a rich relative." 

" I heard somethino- about that. Then 
you do not even correspond ?" 

"No." 

" Ah well," said the doctor ambiguously, 
" I should like to hear of luck coming to her 
in any way. She was a thorough good girl." 

Meanwhile, though Frank did not know 
it, the " thorough good girl " had returned to 
England. 

" I must get back, my dear ; I am tired of 
it all," declared Mrs. Moreton. 

And back accordingly they came, somewhat 
within the six months. It was a way Mrs, 
Moreton had of getting tired of most things ; 
but so far she had not wearied of Abigail. 

" She is vastly improved — do not you think 
so ?" she said to Mr. Fulmer, whom she had 
bidden to a quiet dinner one Saturday shortly 
after her return. 

" I fail to see much change ; she is very 
thin, if that is what you mean." 

"She has fined down," remarked Mrs. 
Moreton. 

" She did not want fining," retorted Mr. 
Fulmer. 



THE END OF THE LOAN. 



" My dear George, in some matters you 
really are a little dense. Whether you have 
noticed it or not, Abigail has acquired quite 
an air of society." 

" I am very glad to hear it, if you are 
pleased ; but what will an air of society do 
for her ?" 

" Many things ; amongst others, enable 
her to make a good marriage." 

" For the future then, I suppose, she is to 
appear in that society of which she has 
acquired the air, as your heiress, not as your 
companion ?" 

" How absurd you are !" 

" Am I ? well, perhaps. Still, except as 
your heiress, I don't exactly see how she is 
to make a great match." 

" Do you suppose no one would marry the 
girl for the sake of her bright eyes ?" 

"Many persons, I should say; but not 
persons you would look upon with favour. 
As my good mother wisely affirms, ' In our 
rank we contract alliances ; we do not rush 
into love-matches.' " 

" Why should not Abigail contract an 
alliance ?" 

VOL. III. 59 



290 MITRE COURT. 



Mr. Fulmer raised his eyebrows. 

"In the first place, I do not think she 
would care for an ' alliance,' if she could con- 
tract one ; and in the second, the other high 
powers might find a few things to cavil 
about." 

" Perhaps you will instance/' said Mrs. 
Moreton, getting very red. 

'* Thank you, I would much rather not. I 

have suofaested • Oh, here is Miss Weir. 

I was just remarking to your aunt that you 
had grown thin." 

" My aunt was always saying we missed 
the English beef and mutton," 

" Very true ; and stout," added Mr. Fulmer. 

"Fie! fie!" reproved Mrs. Moreton, who 
was, in her way, even more particularly re- 
fined than Lady Adela. 

They got very well through dinner, how- 
ever, though nothing so common or unclean 
as stout graced the board and gratified Mr. 
Fulmer's palate. 

" In the absence of Guinness," he said, " I 
can make myself quite happy with Clicquot. 
Nothing like a contented mind, Miss Abi- 
gail." 



THE END OF THE LOAN. 291 

" Nothing," agreed Abigail, laughing. 

" But if she is contented or happy, or in 
the most ordinary good health, I'm a Dutch- 
man," thought Mr. Fulmer. " God help the 
girl, the life is killing her !" 

" You don't eat enough to keep a sparrow 
alive," he said, when the servants were 
gone and Abigail was toying with her fruit. 

" A young lady ought to be able to live 
where a sparrow would starve," answered 
Abigail roguishly. 

" Beyond all things, child, avoid flippancy," 
observed Mrs. Moreton, with evident annoy- 
ance. 

" I notice that is a rock upon which many 
young ladies founder nowadays ;" and Mr. 
Fulmer poured himself out some claret. 

" We shall be very glad to see you upstairs, 
George," said Mrs. Moreton, as she rose 
from table ; "but I do not wish to monopo- 
lize you," which was a stock expression of 
Mrs. Moreton's, and meant that if Mr. 
Fulmer had taken her at her word, she 
would have felt deeply affronted. 

Mrs. Moreton was a " difficult woman," a 
much more difficult woman even than Lady 

59—2 



292 MITRE COURT. 



Adela. She liked a man to belong to a club, 
but she never liked him to go to one. 
There was a fiction prevalent in Lowndes 
Square that Mr. Fulmer, though in a general 
way always hungering and thirsting for the 
very latest club gossip, so delighted in the 
improving conversation which prevailed in 
Mrs. Moreton's house that he could not 
tear himself away; whereas there never 
existed a man who so loved a quiet fireside, 
even though no word was spoken, as Frank's 
chief 

When he repaired to the drawing-room he 
found Abigail in sole possession. Mrs. 
Moreton had gone to write a note, and 
Abigail sat on a low chair at work. 

Large and confident, Mr. Fulmer came 
into the room. Abigail looked round and 
smiled. 

" What do you call this ?" he said, taking 
up one end of her work. 

" Guipure lace," she answered. 

" You are always busy at something." 

" I like to be always busy." 

There ensued a pause, which Mr. Fulmer 
broke by saying : 



THE END OF THE LOAN. 293 

" As I had a hand in bringing you and 
your aunt together, I am dehghted to hear 
she is satisfied with you. May I inquire 
whether you are equally satisfied with her ?" 

Again Abigail glanced up, and laughed as 
she answered : 

" Fairly well, as the Scotch say, Mr. 
Fulmer. She has given me fifty pounds, 
which seems a fortune, and wishes me to 
stop on at the same salary. Do you think I 
could make myself worth so much money ?" 

" No doubt, no doubt ; but are you happy, 
Miss Abigail ?" 

" Is any one happy ?" she asked. 

" I hope so. I am happy when Mrs. 
Moreton is kind to me ; sometimes she is 
very severe. And so you are going to re- 
main here. I am glad of that. You know 
your aunt is a very rich woman." 

" That is a matter which cannot concern 
me. 

" Why not ? If you play your cards well, 
you may get all her money — wake up some 
fine morning and find yourself an heiress." 

" I fancy anyone who began to serve 
]\Irs. Moreton for her money would fare 



294 MITRE COURT. 



much as Jacob did with Laban — after seven 
hard years get Leah instead of Rachel." 

Mr. Fulmer leaned back in his chair and 
laughed heartily ; the conceit tickled him. 

" That is the first bright remark I have 
heard you make in this house," he said. " I 
am so glad. I feared the intense propriety 
of Lowndes Square had altogether damped 
your spirits. Mrs. Moreton," he went on, as 
that lady re-entered the room, "your niece 
has been amusing me greatly, and I like to 
be amused. She has also a very pretty skill 
with her needle ; now do you not think this 
would look well as a trimming on waist- 
coats i^" 

And he displayed Abigail's lace-work on 
bis own ample person. 

" Don't be ridiculous," said his hostess, in 
high good temper. 

''Well, I will try not," he answered^ 
wheeling his chair a little way from Abigail, 
as though to set a space between himself and 
temptation. 

"It was all the fault of this frivolous 
young person," he remarked; "she de- 
moralizes me." 



THE END OF THE LOAN. 295 

And with great gravity he began to dis- 
course concerning the merits of a newpreacher 
Lady Adela had " discovered," till at last 
there came up Figgins, coffee, and a lull, 
during which Mr. Fulmer amused himself 
with thinking about Mrs. Moreton's hopes, 
and the blow he meant to deal them. 
He had lived long enough among clever 
matrons to know Abigail's aunt imagined 
he entertained an affection for that young 
lady, and, the difference in their years not- 
withstanding, wished him to avow it. 

** She is likely as not to live to a hundred," 
he thought meditatively, looking at the 
possessor of wealth he had hoped she 
would, as a mere matter of justice, share 
with her niece, " and she won't give her 
a penny unless the girl marries to her 
mind. Miss Abby won't have any need for 
money if she goes on as she is doing 
for another six months. Never saw such 
a change in anyone before. Selfish old hag, 
Mrs. Moreton ! I will put a spoke in her 
wheel." 

" By-the-bye, Miss Weir," he began, 
putting down his cup and turning to Abigail, 



296 MITRE COURT. 



" have you heard anything lately about your 
friend Mr. Katzen ?" 

" No," said Abigail, with a pretty " don't- 
care " gesture. 

"That is a pity," returned Mr. Fulmer, 
" for he really is possessed of a most pleasant 
humour and quite a fund of original resource. 
He has lately amazed all who had the happi- 
ness of knowing him." 

" How ?" asked Mrs. Moreton. 

" He is Consul for a place called New 
Andalusia — you know that, Miss Weir ?" 

" I ought," answered Abigail ; " I heard 
him talk enough about it." 

'^ Just so. Well, he floated a loan for New 
Andalusia ; one of the many loans, Mrs. 
Moreton, in which I advised you not to in- 
vest. He found much trouble in getting 
money, more trouble than is usually ex- 
perienced in gulling John Bull ; so much 
trouble, indeed, that, having got the money, 
he decided to keep it." 

" Keep it for whom .'*" inquired Mrs. 
Moreton. 

" For himself — for Karl Katzen ; and he 
did, till he had spent most of it in mad specu- 



THE END OF THE LOAN. 297 

lations. There have been bigger swindles 
aforetime in the City, but never one which 
produced such a sensation. Three hundred 
thousand pounds the little beggar raked in 
and wasted. He does not exactly know him- 
self how it has all gone ; people say a clerk 
in his employment relieved him of the care 
of a portion of it ; but however that may be, 
the fact remains, Miss Abigail, that three 
hundred thousand pounds have been sub- 
scribed as a sort of testimonial to your clever 
friend. The confidence of the British public 
is really touching. In exchange for New 
Andalusian bonds the British public parted 
with its hard-earned money ; and now the 
bonds turn out to be only worth the price of 
old paper. There has been a great hulla- 
baloo over the matter, but nothing came of it, 
or ever will come of it." 

" And where has the wretched man o-onei*" 
asked Mrs. More ton. 

" Gone — nowhere. I met him to-day in 
Cornhill, looking well and happy. Having 
had his fling with that New Andalusian trifle, 
he is looking out for some other sheep to 
shear." 



MITRE COURT. 



" But why is he not punished ?" demanded 
Mrs. Moreton. 

'* Because he can't be," was the answer. 
''A comrade of his had him up at the Mansion 
House, but the case was dismissed. They 
have raised a fund amonof the shareholders 
to take the matter into Chancery, but I 
suspect a very knowing lawyer called Slim 
will be the only person to really benefit by 
the proceedings. New Andalusia won't pro- 
secute, because that would be recognising the 
Consul as her agent. No, the man will 
escape scot-free ; a very clever game for 
your little friend to play — eh, Miss Weir ?" 

" I never thought him clever, but I see I 
was wronor," answered Abiofail. 

" Wrong, most decidedly ; and the beauty 
of the whole thing is he has lost nothing — 
not even his character, because he had none 
to lose. What amazes me is that anyone 
trusted him. Fancy, now, Mr. Brisco being 
let in for some thousands " 

" Mr. Brisco !" repeated the girl. 

" Mr. Brisco, who denied himself food 
in order to save money. He has lost 
every penny, and his health besides. He is 



THE END OF THE LOAN. 299 

lying in a most precarious condition. Did 
you not know ? Has no one written to 
you r 

Abigail shook her head, and Mr. Fulmer 
proceeded, pretending not to see the signs 
Mrs. Moreton was making : 

" I cannot imagine what they would do in 
that house if it were not for Mrs. Jeffley. 
By the way, there is one person satisfied 
with the result of the New Andalusian loan 
—Mr. Jeffley." 

" He never liked Mr. Katzen," Abigail 
forced herself to say. 

" It is not that," answered Mr. Fulmer, 
lauorhinof. " Some time back a friend left 
him fifteen hundred pounds, which he en- 
trusted to his wife ; his wife entrusted the 
money to Mr. Katzen ; Mr. Katzen kept it ; 
and ever since Mrs. Jeffley, who, I hear, was 
something of a tartar, has been as meek as a 
lamb. Mr. Jeffley says he wouldn't have 
grudged losing twice fifteen hundred if he 
could only have had the pleasure of thrashing 
the Consul. He tells me he went to Mitre 
Court with the intention of taking the worth 
of his money out of the Consul's body; but he 



300 MITRE COURT. 



looked such a little fellow, that Mr. Jeffley, 
who is a big man, came away again. Curious 
person, Jeffley !" 

" You seem tired, Abigail. Had not you 
better go to bed, child ?" interposed Mrs. 
Moreton at this point. 

"Yes, she is pale," said Mr. Fulmer. 
" Good-night, Miss Weir ; do not dream of 
Mr. Katzen." 

" I will never forgive you, George — never!" 
declared Mrs. Moreton, as Mr. Fulmer 
closed the door behind her niece. " Now, 
do not pretend to be surprised, for I know 
you did it on purpose. In five minutes you 
have undone all my work of the last six 
months. I was weaning her mind away from 
that dreadful old man and his disreputable 
son. I was fittinc;' her for a different rank 
in life. I was training her into ladylike 
ideas and habits " 

" You were killing her," corrected Mr. 
Fulmer. 

" Kill — nonsense ! the girl is as well as 
any girl need wish to be. You have most 
cruelly, as I consider, revived all the 
memories I wished her to forget. I should 



THE END OF THE LOAN. 301 

not be astonished if she even wished to go 
and see these people." 

" I should think very little of her indeed if 
she did not." 

" She must please herself. Should she go, 
I tell you plainly, she shall never return, and 
you will be the cause of the whole mischief ; 
but it is of no more use reasoning with you 
than it is with your mother." 

" Perhaps so," he said good-humouredly ; 
" but do not act hastily, Mrs. Moreton. Sleep 
upon the matter." 

Whether Mrs. Moreton slept at all that 
night is open to question ; one thing only is 
certain, she arose in the same mind, and was 
quite ready to declare war when Abigail re- 
quested permission to go into the City. 

" Certainly not," declared Mrs. Moreton ; 
" you shall come with me to church." 

" I may go after church, then ?" pleaded 
the girl. 

" You will not go after church, or at any 
other time ; I forbid you even thinking of 
such a thing as visiting Mr. Brisco." 

" He is sick, and in trouble." 

"What is that to you? If you intend 



302 MITRE COURT. 



running after every old beggar who chooses 
to lose his money and fall ill, you will have 
enough to do." 

" When I was sick and starved he did not 
turn me from his door." 

" Let us have no arg^ument about the 
matter ; I have said you shall not go into the 
City. Let that suffice." 

" But I entreat you to listen to me. I 
should be a monster of ingratitude if, now I 
know Mr. Brisco is ill, I could rest without 
ofoingf to see him." 

" Once for all, you shall not go. I wonder 
even you should propose anything so out- 
rageously improper !" 

" It is not improper; and if it were, I should 
not care. What is unfitting in one rank is 
not unfitting in another." 

" I will not endure impertinence from you," 
retorted Mrs. Moreton. " Take your own way 
if you choose ; but remember, if once you 
leave this house, you leave it for ever. No 
one remains with me who disputes my com- 
mands." 

" I am not ungrateful to you because I am 
faithful to Mr. Brisco," persisted Abigail. 



THE END OF THE LOAN. 303 

" If ever you are sick or In sorrow send for 
me, and I will not fail you ; but I will leave 
you now. I am not fit for the life you want 
me to lead. Could many waters wash away 
the memory of a past like mine ? If I lived 
with you fifty years I should never feel as the 
young ladies of your world feel, nor think as 
the ladies, young and old, of your world 
think." 

" Of course you will act as you think fit. I 
have no power to compel you to stay here." 

" Ah ! do not speak as if you were angry 
with me." 

" I am angry. I treated you in all respects 
as if you were my own child. I intended you 
to marry well, and had you settled suitably, 
would have given you a handsome dowry ; 
but as you prefer this old man and his son to 
me, there remains no common oround be- 
tween us. As a matter of ordinary decency 
I should have thought you might feel some 
reluctance to fling yourself at the head of a 
former lover who has shown he does not 
want you ; but it would be unreasonable to 
expect modesty or decorum from your mother's 
child." 



304 MITRE COURT. 



"It would," agreed Abigail bitterly ; "it 
would indeed." 

" So clearly understand that, if you are not 
ready to come with me to morning service, I 
shall conclude you mean us to part for ever," 

Abigail did not immediately answer. Per- 
haps she was thinking where she should go 
when Mrs. Moreton's house was closed against 
her ; but she did not remain silent for long. 
Rising, she said : 

" Good-bye then, aunt. Thank you for 
your kindness. I am sorry to leave you in 
this way ; more sorry still you should think 
me ungrateful." 

" That will do," returned Mrs. Moreton ; 
" we can now forget each other. Your luggage 
shall be forwarded to any address you 
desire." 

"■ Thank you," retorted Abigail, with much 
spirit ; " but I brought almost as little into 
this house as I brought into the world, and I 
want nothing out of it. Forgive me," she 
added vehemently, " for speaking so rudely, 
but you seem to imagine I care only for ease 
and clothes and " 

" Set your mind at rest," interrupted Mrs. 



THE END OF THE LOAN. 305 



Moreton grimly. " I know you care for 
nothing but your own way ; your mother 
took her own way. She did not find it par- 
ticularly pleasant or respectable, I fancy. 
No, do not come near me. I decline to 
shake hands with you. If there is one thing 
I hate and despise more than another it is 
hypocrisy." 

The bells had long ceased ringing when 
Abigail entered the City ; in every street and 
court and alley the blessed Sunday stillness 
she knew so well reigned supreme. She had 
left her aunt's house chafed and hurt ; but as 
she drove from the West there came over her 
a sense of peace and freedom which seemed 
wonderful after the long subjection of will and 
wish to the bidding of another. The remem- 
bered silence laid a quiet hand on the troubles 
of her soul. The City seemed home to her 
who was now literally homeless. 

She dismissed her cab in East Cheap, and 
walked slowly forward, thinking over the 
step she had taken — wondering whether Mr. 
Brisco would refuse to see her. The taunt 
Mrs. Moreton had thrown out stuck and 
rankled. Perhaps she was doing an un- 

VOL. III. 60 



3o6 MITRE COURT. 



maidenly thing in going to the old house ; 
but she had left it 'to serve Frank, and she 
was returning out of pity for his father. 

In a few moments she was at Love Lane ; 
going down the narrow street, passing St. 
Mary's and the familiar court with its red- 
brick houses, she did not meet a creature. 
The City might have been enchanted ground, 
so little sign of life was there within its 
limits. She looked up at the old house ; 
nothing was changed, save that it wore a 
look of neglect it cut her somehow to see. 
She ran up the steps ; the door stood ajar. 
Some one had gone out for a moment and 
would be back presently ; but she did not 
wait for their coming. She pushed open the 
door and passed in. The marble pavement, 
the wide staircase, greeted her like friends ; 
they seemed to say to each other, " Here is 
Abigail." The very echoes were familiar. 
Yes, this was her home — her own — the only 
home she had ever really known. Tears 
sprang into her eyes, but she brushed them 
away, and went upstairs to the room Mr. 
Brisco had always occupied as a bed-chamber. 
So far not a sound had broken the stillness ; 



THE END OF THE LOAN. 307 



the old house might have been tenanted by 
ghosts. A strange feeling of unreality began 
to oppress the girl. What if Mr. Brisco had 
gone away ; what if strangers were in charge 
of the buildinsf ? At the well-remembered 
door Abigail paused, and, after a moment of 
hesitation, knocked softly. 

" Come in," said some one in a low, hushed 
voice ; and then she entered. 

On the bed lay Mr. Brisco, motionless and 
colourless. Illness had wrought somewhat 
the same change in his appearance that is 
usually produced alone by death. All cyni- 
cism, all hardness, all bitterness were wiped 
clean away ; but with them had gone, likewise, 
the power and the strength which usually 
cling to a man's face, even when life is 
gone. 

A woman who sat beside the bed rose. It 
was Mrs. Jeffley — anxious and somewhat 
pale, but Mrs. Jeffley still, buxom, nicely 
dressed, good and wholesome to look at. 

*' I did so hope you would come," she said, 
speaking in a whisper. 

Abigail kissed her. At that moment her 
wrongs, if she had any, were forgotten, and 

60 — 2 



3o8 MITRE COURT. 



she remembered only the woman ever ready 
to help and to give. 

For she had not expected to see Mrs. 
Jeffley there, and yet it seemed natural. 

" How is he ?" she asked. 

" Very bad," was the answer. 

" Is it all true .'*" went on Abigail. 

Mrs. Jeffley nodded. 

" And Frank T 

" He bears up wonderful. Says he has 
got to keep his father and himself, and can 
do it. He keeps quite cheerful." 

The words struck cold on Abigail's heart. 
No need for her, no place for her — she felt a 
stranger in the old house. She did not feel 
more a stranger on that first night, when she 
crept in like a dog out of the cold, and slunk 
like a dog away from sight. A moment 
before she had been about to remove her hat 
and jacket, but now she stood silent. They 
had done — they could do without her ; there 
was no niche for Abigail. The necessary 
gulf separation creates yawned wide and clear 
before the girl's eyes. She felt as if she 
could not bridge it. She was not necessary 
in the house of which she had been the 



THE END OE THE LOAN. 309 

moving spirit, she thought bitterly, when a 
slight movement of the sick man attracted 
her attention. 

He was trying to raise his feeble hands, 
and his eyes, which still retained something 
of their former keenness, were turned in the 
direction of Abigail. 

" See, he knows you !" exclaimed Mrs. 
Jeffley. " Come close to him ; he wants 
you. 

Mechanically the girl obeyed, doubtfully, 
remembering how they had parted. She 
drew near the sick man. 

" I am Abigail," she said, dropping on her 
knees beside the bed. '' May I stop ?" 

From the white lips there came some 
sound which Abigail, who had once under- 
stood Mr. Brisco's every gesture, could not 
comprehend. 

Helplessly she turned to Mrs. Jeffley for 
an explanation. 

" What is it, dear ?" asked Jack's wife, 
bending over the sick man. It was strange 
to hear Mr. Brisco addressed as " dear," and 
more strange still to find him not resenting 
the liberty. 



MITRE COURT. 



" He wants to know where you have been," 
said Mrs. Jeffley, raising her head. 

" I have been in Italy," said Abigail, ad- 
dressing Mr, Brisco. 

There ensued another pause, during which 
Mr. Brisco was evidently ill at ease about 
something. 

" He does not like seeing you in your hat," 
hazarded Mrs. Jeffley. 

Abigail removed her hat, but still Mr. 
Brisco appeared dissatisfied. 

He kept his eyes fixed on Abigail, and at 
last, with one feeble finger, contrived to 
touch her shoulder. 

" I'm sure I have not a notion what is 
wrong with him now," said Mrs. Jeffley. 

" It was given to me," explained Abigail, 
who understood he was objecting to the 
richness of her dress. '' I will put on 
another." 

Again he seemed uneasy. 

"Poor fellow! See, he is asking you to 
give him your hand," translated Mrs. Jeffley. 

Next moment Abigail was on her knees 
by the bedside, with the clay-cold fingers 
clasped in hers, with her face buried in the 



THE END OF THE LOAN. 



coverlet, sobbing as if her heart would 
break. 

"Why, who is this ?" asked a voice behind 
her. 

" Don't you know ? It is Abigail !" ex- 
claimed Mrs. Jeffley. 

''Abis^ail! Abigail!" 

"Yes, Abigail." The girl had risen, and 
was addressing him in person. "Abigail 
come to stay. Abigail, who wants to " 

But here Abigail broke down completely, 
and fell sobbing on her lover's breast. 





CONCLUSION. 




OT even when the Fellowship 
Porters, carrying great nosegays, 
walked two and two up the broad 
aisle to deposit their benevolence on the 
altar, could St. Mary-at-Hill have been 
crammed fuller of flowers and company than 
on that fine autumn morning when Ralph 
Francis Brisco there took to wife, till death 
should them part, Abigail Weir. 

The church was crowded ; old friends and 
new were all there to see two young people 
made happy. 

Not a grand company by any means, but 
quite grand enough for a pair who had many a 
year of hard work and struggle before them. 

No guests were bidden, but guests came 
unbidden. Not one of the parishes round 



CONCLUSION. 313 



about failed to furnish its contingent, and as the 
bride passed up the aisle a subdued chorus of 
" God bless her !" " God make them happy !" 
was perfectly audible. And there never was 
a happier bride. Her face was April weather : 
she could scarce smile for tears ; she could 
not shed tears for joy. 

Frank was very grave, but very proud. 
What man would not have been while 
Abigail was promising, with all her soul in 
her voice, to love, honour, and obey him ? 

Mr. Jeffley, who gave the bride away, de- 
clared he personally could not have felt 
livelier if he had been the bridegroom. 

"If you're only as happy, my boy, as I am 
when you have been married as long, you 
wouldn't care to have a rent-roll of five 
thousand a year," he declared subsequently ; 
while Mrs. Jeffley, in a perfectly new dress — 
over which Mrs. Mount kept her in a fever, 
not bringing it home "till just upon twelve the 
night before the wedding " — spent her time in 
nodding encouragement to Abigail and 
looking daggers at Mrs. Childs, with whom 
she had, weeks before, engaged in a battle- 
royal concerning the discovered iniquity of 



314 MITRE COURT. 

leaving Sophia in charge of Mr. Brisco, 
"though what harm that innocent child could 
do him or anybody else passes my under- 
standing," said the culprit. 

Not to show any unchristian resentment — 
because, as she stated, "It always has been 
my endeavour to do a good turn, even 
to them as despitefully uses me" — Mrs. 
Childs had smiled and nodded in an 
affable manner to her old employer; but Mrs. 
Jeffley returned this advance in the sight of 
the whole congregation with so stony a glare, 
that Mrs, Childs retired discomfited, and 
was forced to seek solace in whispering to 
Sophia : 

" Who's she, I'd like to know .^ Set her 
up, indeed !" 

Variety was given to the solemnity of the 
proceedings by Sophia, who, dressed in her 
very best, with a huge white favour pinned 
under her chin, audibly read the marriage 
service through a little in advance of the 
clergyman. Sometimes she lost ground by 
reciting such unnecessary portions as " I 
publish the banns of marriage between M. 
and N.," as also the directions printed in 



CONCLUSION. 315 

italics ; but she always, by reason both of 
speed and steadiness, regained it, and was 
thus enabled generally to win by a head at 
some critical point. She scored immensely 
when the rector was saying, "Wilt thou have 
this man to thy wedded husband?" because 
he read very slowly and Sophia fast. Hold- 
ing her Prayer Book well up to her eyes, 
a second before he had reached " as long as 
you both shall live," Sophia electrified the 
congregation with — 

" The woman shall answer, ' I will.' " 

The rector paused, and looked around. 
As he did so, from the body of the church 
there came : 

" Then shall the minister say, * Who giveth 
this woman to be married to this man ?' 
Then shall they give their troth to each other 
in this fashion." 

" Some lunatic is present," thought the 
rector, and went on calmly. 

At last the service was finished; at last the 
bells pealed out. 

'^ Not ring for her ! my conscience," said 
one of the men, "I'd ring till my arms ached !" 

The service was over — the register signed — 



3i6 MITRE COURT. 



the bride congratulated — the happy pair back 
again in the old house. 

There was no wedding-breakfast, but all 
who cared to see the gifts were gladly 
welcomed to wine and cake. 

Some of the presents were very handsome, 
many only such things as are sent to 
bazaars. 

Every member of Deedes' firm contributed 
something worthy of display. Mr. Fulmer 
gave publicly a clock, and privately a cheque 
for a hundred pounds. Lady Adela, in the 
joy of her heart, a knitted shawl. Mrs. 
Moreton sent nothing — not even a hope that 
the newly married pair might be miserable. 

There were gifts which touched Abigail 
mightily, and which she arranged with great 
care. Little pincushions, little needle-books, 
little baskets filled with flowers for " dear, 
dear Miss Weir;" but, as was natural, the 
articles which had cost most money drew the 
largest share of attention. 

" Don't talk to me," said Mrs. Childs, 
genial to the last, as, cheered with wine and 
satisfied with cake, she left the old house. 
" 111 or well, mad or sane, Mr. Brisco made 



CONCLUSION. 317 



no mistake when he let his son marry Miss 
Weir. She'll have hundreds and hundreds 
of thousands one of these days, and they'll 
not let her touch a penny of her own 
fortune, was it ever so !" 



THE END. 



BILLING AND SONS, PRINTERS, GUILDFORD. 

G.,C.&' Ca. 



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